Last night, I read an article that fit absolutely perfectly into my unintentional but prominent theme of the last couple of weeks: the relationship of the microbiome to weight issues…and to food: “Food Processing, Gut Microbiota and the Globesity Problem.”[i] Yup – we face an epidemic of“globesity”! Great word, right?!
In fact, on the subject of globesity, the article’s first sentences point out some depressing statistics: “In 2016, 39% of the global population aged 18 years or older was overweight and 13% was obese. Elevated BMI, a parameter of obesity, is a risk factor for NCD [non-communicable diseases], which include cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes. CVD alone cause 26.9 million deaths per year and all NCD combined cause 71% of the world annual deaths…”
Remember: as I pointed out earlier this week, there is no one truth and the article emphasizes that we simply do not yet know all the factors that are feeding (ugh..another inadvertent pun by Judy!) into the obesity epidemic. And when it comes to some of the most likely culprits, we don’t yet fully know any mechanisms of action. So what I’m about to report is a status update on some ongoing research…it is not THE answer.
To emphasize this point, I want to share with you a quote from the article that sums this sentiment up: “The development of the global obesity problem has triggered researchers worldwide to study the effects of human dietary and lifestyle patterns on energy balance and body weight trends…How and why this energy disbalance occurs so widespread and why this phenomenon seems so difficult to control or counteract is subject to research all over the world.” Scientists are working to figure it out but as yet, there are unfortunately, no definitive answers.
One of the likely culprits though appears to be the way in which food is commonly processed in the industrialized world: “The development of a so-called Western dietary pattern has been strongly related to the obesity problem and can be attributed to major worldwide changes in the agro-industrial systems. Since 1850, but especially after WWII, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and vegetable oils are increasingly produced and consumed, strenuous milling and sieving of grains has led to highly refined four without fiber or germ…and the practice of feeding grain to cattle instead of grass provides us with meat with higher saturated fat contents than wild or pasture-fed animals could deliver.”
So what we know is that the way our food is prepared has radically changed in the last 150 years, especially in the last 70 years or so. And highly processed food is calorie dense and nutrient deficient, exposing us to markedly greater levels of unhealthy fats, sugar, salt – and increasing low amounts of fiber. And this shift entirely parallels the increase in obesity.
The authors emphasize what is now accepted as fact and what is still hypothesis or conjecture and I will let you know what’s what, as I hit the high points for you.
The article concludes by stating that, “Reviewing recently addressed features of processed foods, it can be concluded that all these factors can in some way be related to obesity, metabolic syndrome and NCD…All considered processing features have been evidenced to affect or disturb the gut microbiota, to a greater or lesser extent. As such, all features induced shifts in microbiota composition.”
But remember – as they also say, “It is obvious that research around the subject of this paper is still in its infancy.” So as I said at the start, much of this is hypothesis or suspect, but not as yet, fact. Still, as you all know, I am all about things you can do now and so…maybe eating a diet that is mainly whole foods is a really good idea?!
[i] Miclotte, L and Van de Wiele, T. Food processing, gut microbiota and the globesity problem. Critical Review in Food Science and Nutrition. 2019. DOI:10.1080/10408398.2019.1596878
Category: Bacterial Microbiome, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Diet, inflammation, Metabolic Syndrome, microbiome, obesity, UncategorizedTags: antibiotics, bacterialmicrobiome, cardiovasculardisease, Diabetes, Diet, gutbacteria, health, inflammation, leakygut, metabolicsyndrome, microbes, microbiome, nutrition, obesity