Fast food vs. the African diet: The bacteria battle waged in your gut

Story highlights

  • Diets high in fat and low in fiber could thwart the ability of the gut microbiome to regulate inflammation
  • Wheat, yogurt and vegetables could be fertilizers for healthy gut bacteria
  • The profile of bacteria in the gut changes rapidly in response to diet changes

(CNN)Next time you are trying to decide what's for dinner, consider that you are eating for two: you and your gut microbiome.

The bacterial community in your colon is home to about 100 trillion bacterial cells; there are about 10 times more of these bacterial cells than there are human cells in your body, and they represent a vast number of different species.
It is in your best interest to keep this microbiome mass of bacteria happy. Gut microbiomes that contain healthy, inflammation-reducing bacteria could help reduce the risk of myriad health conditions: cancer, heart disease, infection. Stool transplants from a person with a healthy microbiome have been showed to help cure antibiotic-resistant infections.
    "We are getting a pretty good idea of what's good or bad for the gut microbiome," said Dr. Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London. How food affects the microbiome is the subject of his new book, "The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat."
    The book includes hints about how fast food could wreak havoc on our gut microbiome. As Spector discussed, his 23-year-old son put himself on a strict diet of fast food for 10 days as part of his dissertation project. It stripped his gut microbiome of about a third of its 3,500 bacterial species. Bacteria that have been linked obesity flourished.
    Not to mention the toll, he said, the fast food regimen took on the young man's body: "My son was at first excited to get 10 days of fast food, but after day three, the novelty had worn off," Spector recall