You eat healthy throughout the week, and you even make your own meals. But, once the weekend hits, you decide to give yourself a pass for a couple of days. You eat out one night, and the next day you binge on potato chips and other junk foods.
At least you’re not eating junk food every day, right? The thing is that type of yo-yo eating from week to weekend can be just as bad for your gut as a regular junk food diet, according to a new study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. The study findings found that erratic junk food eating three day per week can sufficiently change the gut microbiota similar to that of obese rats that eat the junk food diet daily.
For the study, researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) examined the impact yo-yo dieting had on the gut microbiota of rats. It is the first research study to compare either irregular or continuous unhealthy eating that can influence the structure of the gut microbiota. The research combined UNSW’s School of Medical Sciences with UNSW’s Schools of Psychology and Biological Sciences.
The gut microbiota is the name given to the intestinal microbe population. The human gut microbe is thought to contain tens of trillions of microbial cells that influence the immune system, nutrition, and metabolism. Gut microbiota disruption is associated with gastrointestinal disorders, including obesity and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The researchers compared the gut microbiota in rats that were consistently given a junk food diet or a healthy diet in a 16-week study. There was also a group of rats that would eat healthy for four days, while eating junk food for three days.
The research team studied a variety of metabolic markers such as fat mass, body weight, and leptin and insulin. By the end of the study, the rats that alternated between the healthy and junk food diet were 18% larger in weight than the healthy dieters. Also, the yo-yo dieters had insulin and leptin levels that varied between the healthy and junk food diet rats.
The research team found that the yo-yo dieting rats’ microbiota was no different from the rats consistently given a junk food diet, while both junk food groups had significantly altered microbiota than the rats eating healthy.
The yo-yo dieting rats also showed a large fluctuation in food intake. They would consume 30% more energy than the rats that ate healthy. When the yo-yo dieters ate healthy, they ate half the food than the rats that only consumed healthy foods.
“A reduction in the diversity of the gut’s microbiota and a loss of some of the beneficial biota is clearly not a good thing for health,” explained lead study research professor Margaret Morris, who is the head of pharmacology at UNSW.
Although the findings need to be duplicated in human trials, people who consume a strict diet during the week may be negating all their healthy eating by switching back to weekend junk food habits.
The study suggests that particular gut microbiota like Blautia and Ruminococcus may contribute to future metabolic disorder treatments. That being said, the next step is to study the link between gut microbiota and behaviors and the brain.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Dan Wheelahan., “Weekend binge just as bad for the gut as regular junk food diet, study suggests,” Newsroom, 20 January, 2016. http://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/health/weekend-binge-just-bad-gut-regular-junk-food-diet-study-suggests