- The way food is cooked can significantly impact the variety of bacteria or microbiome in your gut.
- Researchers observed noticeable differences in the gut microbiome in mice when they were fed cooked versus raw vegetables, while no significant difference was observed when fed cooked or raw meat.
- The above difference might be due to the small intestine’s increased ability to absorb cooked food and the presence of specific compounds in raw vegetables that affect certain gut microbes.
- While raw diets in mice led to weight loss, their gut microbes caused weight gain when transplanted to other mice, a paradox still under investigation.
- Diet-induced changes in gut microbiome were also observed in human volunteers, indicating a need for further research into the effects of long-term dietary changes.
There’s more to consider about your food than just its nutritional content; the way it’s prepared can also significantly affect your health. A recent study has found that how you cook your food can have a profound impact on the variety of bacteria, or microbiome, within your gut.
Discovering the Undiscovered
Fascinatingly, Peter Turnbaugh, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the prestigious University of California, San Francisco, noticed a gap in research around food and gut health. While his lab and others have investigated the effects of different diets, including vegetarian and meat-based ones, on the microbiome, it seemed that nobody had turned their lens to the potential effects of cooking itself on the gut’s microbial ecosystems, he noted.
The Impact of Cooking on Gut Bacteria
The team used mice as subjects for their experiments, feeding them both raw and cooked forms of meat and sweet potatoes. They found that whether the meat was cooked or raw made no noticeable difference to the gut bacteria. However, whether the sweet potatoes were cooked or raw had a significant impact on the mice’s microbiomes. They further confirmed their findings by feeding the mice a variety of other raw and cooked vegetables.
According to the study, these differences might be due to the small intestine’s increased ability to absorb cooked food, which leaves less for bacteria further down the gastrointestinal tract. Raw vegetables, on the other hand, contain compounds that seem to negatively affect certain microbes.
The discovery surprised the researchers, who originally thought that the discrepancies would be solely due to differences in carbohydrate metabolism. Instead, it seems that the chemicals found in plants also play a crucial role in influencing gut bacteria. Moreover, Turnbaugh highlighted the importance of considering other dietary components and their effects on gut bacteria.
Raw Diets and Weight Changes
Another interesting find in this study was the impact of raw diets on weight. Mice that were fed raw diets lost weight. However, when their gut microbes were transplanted into other mice, those mice gained weight – a paradox that the researchers are still trying to explain.
In a separate test, human volunteers were fed raw and cooked meals. The researchers found that these diets also changed the human volunteers’ microbiomes, corresponding with the findings from the rodent trials.
Additional Research Needed
However, the specific changes in the human microbiomes differed from those of the mice. Turnbaugh expresses a keen interest in conducting larger and longer studies to understand the effect of longer-term dietary changes in humans.
Implications of the Study
Understanding how diet impacts the microbiome helps us learn more about how gut microbes play a role in weight gain and other areas of health. Additionally, it also raises questions about the evolution of human microbes and the potential impact on overall health.
This report got published in the journal Nature Microbiology last September.
For more on the microbiome, refer to the Harvard School of Public Health.