Many of us can’t wait for the end of the year, if for no other reason than to satisfy our year-round cravings for eggnog, prime rib, dressing, pecan pie and other fatty holiday foods.

Eating those holiday foods in excess as many of us do during the season comes with an unhealthy price to pay in adding extra pounds, not to mention harming our gut.

A recent study featured in Cell Reports goes a long way toward describing how the gut may predict the damage you do to your body merely by eating excessive amounts of high-fat foods.

High-fat diets: No ho, ho, ho!

Previous studies have found that people eating the same high-fat diets — the major culprit in an array of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and stroke — react differently. Some may suffer from less or more problems than others.

Researchers fed genetically similar mice healthy foods and screened urine samples for compounds produced by their gut bacteria, establishing a baseline of healthy chemical profiles.

Once those same lab animals were switched to fatty foods, their tiny bodies reacted just like their human counterparts, with some becoming less tolerant to glucose (an early sign of diabetes) while others gained more weight.

Follow-up analyses of urine samples taken from mice after feeding them fatty foods changed too, predicting signs of unhealthy changes in weight, glucose and behavior.

In fact, the presence of one very popular chemical produced by the gut — trimethylene n-oxide (TMAO) — was a sign of glucose issues, not to mention heart disease.

“We tend to believe that obesity is caused by bad genes or by bad genes interacting with bad environment,” says Dr. Dominique Gauguier, a senior investigator on this study based in Paris, according to a press release.

“Our findings indicate that an organism’s gut microbiome can drive the adaptation to dietary challenges in the absence of genetic variation.”

These results are only the beginning, as researchers plan to embark on a larger, more in-depth clinical trial on 2,000 human patients that will go further toward forecasting how people react to differing diets and how gut health drives their overall health.

The long-term goal: Generating chemical profiles from urine and blood samples that may offer guidance on what diets are most supportive for a patient’s optimal health.

Until that comes…

What we do know right now is that maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial gut bacteria is critical in protecting your body from cardiovascular diseases like diabetes, based on the findings of a Danish study we’ve discussed previously.

That same study also found that patients who had less diverse gut microbiomes carried more fat on their bodies and experienced more inflammation in their digestive tracts, making them more vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases.

The holiday season is full of gatherings with friends, family and lots of fatty seasonal foods that can add inches and pounds to your waistline and disrupt the diversity of your gut in no time if you overindulge too often.

Keeping your portion sizes small and eating healthier foods rich in fiber can do a lot of good for your body and keep off those extra pounds.

Taking a multi-species probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic with 10 distinct species of beneficial bacteria, can also go a long way toward protecting the diversity of your gut and your overall health too.