Why does eating fatty foods make us want to eat more? An animal study is suggesting that fatty foods change the types of bacteria that populate our guts, and because we now know that bacteria are able to communicate with the brain via a hormonal channel (they produce chemical compound that the body thinks is a neurotransmitter) when we discussed the gut-brain connection in behavioural disorders.
Well, now scientists think that a similar process can affect our brain’s understanding of “fullness”. If the wrong bacteria are interfering with the communications to our brain telling us that we’re full, then we over-indulge. At the moment, these findings are all within rat studies, so we don’t actually know whether this is true for humans, but it is certainly plausible.
In this US experiment, the researchers surmise that the wrong bugs are over-populating the gut and causing more sensitive bugs to die out . It is possible that the action of the bad bacteria causes enough inflammation inside the gut to damage the nerve cells that carry signals to the brain telling it that the stomach is full. This could partially explain the problem we have with obesity, since we now live an environment of cheap, easily accessible processed and manufactured foods, which are high in fat, sugar and salt. The symbiotic relationship we have with the bacteria that live with us simply haven’t adapted with time.
It is easy in this modern world to buy and consume convenience food, and it certainly saves us more time to do other things such as work extra hours or fit in the social engagements we now much more regularly cram into our lives. But eating as close to nature as we can often avoids the need to count calories! Certainly foods higher in fat and protein, and also “quality” carbohydrates, will keep us feeling fuller for longer, but these should be in their natural states – not added as in the case of biscuits, cakes, pastries, processed and fried foods.
This doesn’t mean we should never eat donuts or fries, but we should think about putting them very low down in our eating habits, and consume them as “now and then” – once a week or less.
Supporting the good bacteria in your gut is best done by eating a high fibre diet: fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat.