Eating too much fat and sugar as a child can change the microbiome for life, even in those who learn to eat healthier in later life. That’s according to an American research in mice.

On and in our bodies, especially in our intestines, there are many organisms that strengthen the immune system, break down food and help in the synthesis of vitamins. If the healthy balance between beneficial and harmful organisms is disturbed, we are more susceptible to disease. This can be done, for example, by antibiotics or in case of illness, but unhealthy food also has an impact. Even in the long run. That’s according to research in mice.

The western diet

During the three-week study, half of the mice ate a standard, healthy diet and the other half had unhealthier ‘Western’ foods. Both groups were split up again: a group with a running wheel available and a group that did not have exercise. Fourteen weeks later, the team examined the intestinal flora of all mice, and the impact on the number of beneficial bacteria became clear.

For example, the bacterium muribaculum intestinal, which is involved in carbohydrate metabolism, was found to be just more present in the mice with the healthy diet and the walking wheel, but decreased in mice that ate unhealthy, regardless of the amount of exercise they received. The diet in particular therefore appears to play a key role. The research team suspects that the bacterium affects the energy level.

Similar to humans

“In our study, we studied mice, but the effect we observed is similar,” said evolutionary physiologist Theodore Garland of the University of California, Riverside. “For children on a Western diet full of fat and sugar, this is equivalent to a degraded microbiome in the intestines up to six years after puberty. So you are not only what you eat, but also what you ate as a child,” garland concludes.

Erica Delaney

An experienced nurse, Erica focuses on subjects related to pregnancy and infant health. She enjoys dancing and playing the piano in her free time.