Junk food – we all love it. But do our bodies feel the same way about our favorite McDonald’s meals? Research suggests that it might be otherwise.
Just recently a team of scientists explored the link between eating junk food and the overall health and well-being. Tim Spector, the lead scientists of the project, concluded that junk food kills stomach bacteria that is responsible for protection against obesity, diabetes, cancer, inflammatory bowel conditions, heart disease and even autism.
The cause and effect within the phenomenon was explored with the help of a case study – Spector’s own son Tom, who agreed to consume only McDonald’s meals, including hamburgers, chips, nuggets and Coca Cola for 10 days straight. There are around 3,500 different bacteria in the human gut and the fragile balance between all of them is necessary for the proper functioning of the human body. When the experiment started, Tom had around 3,500 species but once the diet began, he lost about one third of them. The proportion of the different bacteria species in his stomach also changed, so it might seem like the McDonalds diet not only eliminated a large number of gut bacteria but was especially harmful to a particular type of them.
For most people, losing weight is simply a matter of calorie-counting. Eat less than you need, and you’ll shed off those extra pounds. Professor Spector’s research, however, suggests that it might not be a case of simply overeating. Think about it: there are many people who eat whatever they want, including junk food, and yet are still slim and thin. The answer might be hidden in the stomach flora, which has a key role in protecting from potentially harmful microbes and regulating the metabolism.
The bacteria that live inside the human body is especially important for its proper functioning. In fact, bacteria make around 90% of the cells in our tissues and organs and performs a vital role in producing vitamins and breaking down and digesting food. The bacteria in a person’s gut weigh around 2 kg and any changes in its number or proportions can result in health issues and affect the immune system, metabolism, body weight, as well as cause cancer, autoimmune diseases and diabetes.
The stomach flora produce digestive enzymes, which are necessary for the absorption of nutrients in the body. Imbalances have been linked to various health conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease and colitis. Autistic patients often complain of gut problems and autism has been linked to lower gut bacterial activity.
The link between microbes, food and health has been explored in the book The Diet Myth, authored by Professor Tim Spector. He argues that the real cause of obesity is not so much overeating, but rather eating the wrong things. When there is a lack of certain bacteria in the gut and bacterial imbalance, the stomach flora cannot perform its role and produce the vital digestive enzymes. Diets, rich in fat and sugar (much like McDonald’s meals and drinks), combined with inadequate nutrition caused by the bacterial imbalance, as well as lack of exercise, can lead to a variety of health issues, including severe obesity, heart problems, inflammatory bowel disease and many more.
The link between our lifestyle and health has been identified for years now, but we have just recently begun unraveling the secrets of our own body. Junk food has not only been implicated in preventing you from losing weight, but it can lead to more serious health complications. By eliminating almost one third of the gut flora, the ingredients in junk food affect your overall health and well-being and can present serious health consequences.