The downside of avoiding dietary fiber, however, may be worse and more far-reaching than health professionals ever imagined, according to a Stanford University School of Medicine study appearing in a recent issue of Gut Metabolism.
Much is known about the many ways gut bacteria can be depleted from the human gut — too many antibiotics, more C-section births and less breastfeeding — in industrialized societies like our own, says Dr. Erica Sonnenburg, lead author of the Stanford study.
“We asked ourselves whether the huge difference in dietary fiber intake between traditional and modern populations could, alone, account for it.”
In fact, Dr. Erica Sonnenburg, along with many other scientists, now believe the gut health of people in developed countries like our own is an estimated 30 percent less diverse than those living as hunter-gatherers today, due to the disparity in fiber.
Fiber vs. no fiber
Researchers tested their concerns on mice living in a sterile environment, whose guts were populated with human gut bacteria. Then, the mice were split into two groups. One was fed high-fiber, plant-derived food, while the other was fed a similar chow (similar fat, protein and calories) that contained almost no fiber.
Within two weeks, the differences between both groups became very apparent. Among mice consuming low-to-no fiber, many species of gut bacteria disappeared altogether, while others fell by about 75 percent.
Switching back to a healthier, fiber rich diet didn’t solve the problem entirely for the no-fiber mice either, as a third of the bacterial species that inhabited their guts early on were never restored.
About your grandkids…
So, how can a low-fiber diet affect generations of grandkids?
Once a group of these mice were fed and raised on high-fiber foods and allowed to reproduce, scientists discovered the gut health of each successive generation of animals declined sharply.
By the fourth generation, bacterial diversity in the guts of mice had fallen by nearly 75 percent, compared to the first generation. Even worse, at least two-thirds of the bacterial species in the guts of first generation mice were lost for good.
Stanford researchers managed to engineer a happy ending to this study, albeit with caveats. By giving the fourth generation of depleted mice fecal transplants taken from high-fiber diet mice and feeding them high-fiber diets, the diversity and composition of gut bacteria mirrored those of the control mice within 10 days.
Although changes in human DNA are few as generations pass, the same may not be said about our gut microbiomes over time, says Dr. Sonnenburg, in an interview with Science.
Unfortunately, a fecal transplant isn’t a quick fix for health problems either. Based on a recent case study, a woman became overweight after receiving a fecal transplant from her daughter.
One very safe way to maintain and improve the diversity of your gut is to take a daily probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic that contains multiple strains of beneficial bacteria.
Your children and grandchildren will also benefit by supplementing their health with the multiple strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria contained in EndoMune Junior.