Gut bacteria may counter the harmful effects of processed foods

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New research in rodents identifies a gut bacterium that counters the harmful health effects of processed foods. The findings could help improve food manufacturing and the quality of products, as well as devise new strategies for using gut bacteria to fight the adverse effects of processed food.

Numerous studies have documented the harm of chemically processed foods, such as cereals, bread, pasta, chocolate, and soda.

Research has linked processed foods, which are prevalent in the Western diet — and also the typical American diet — with weight gain, obesity, increased insulin resistance, and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, studies that Medical News Today reported on shed more light on potential risks of processed and ultra-processed foods.

Processed meat may raise the risk of breast cancer, ultra-processed foods may increase the risk of cancer in general and harm our cardiovascular health, while autoimmune diseases — such as type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and multiple sclerosis — may also be down to the effects of processed foods on the intestines.

So, what can we do to counter some of these harms? New research points to an interesting avenue: We can look inside the gut.

In the new paper, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WUSTL) show how a specific gut bacterium called Collinsella intestinalis breaks down a harmful chemical that is in processed foods, rendering it harmless.

Dr. Jeffrey I. Gordon, the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of the Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology at WUSTL, is the last and corresponding author of the study.

Ashley R. Wolf, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in Gordon’s lab, is the first author of the paper, which appears in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

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