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Eating for the Microbes

Eating a Western diet for generations has taken a toll on Westerners' gut microbiomes, researchers report in Nature this week.

A Stanford University School of Medicine-led team examined the gut microbiomes of mice fed either a diet low in microbiota-accessible carbohydrates — like the high-fat and -carbohydrate, low-fiber Western diet — or a high-MAC diet — like that of agrarian hunter-gatherers. The changes that occurred to their microbiota, the researchers report, are largely reversible.

But as they carried on the experiment over successive generations of mice, they found that a low-MAC diet led to a progressive loss of diversity and that that diversity couldn't be regained through the reintroduction of dietary MACs. 

That is, the Los Angeles Times notes, all the probiotic powders may not be enough to bring the lost microbes back.

"Our data support a model in which consuming a modern diet low in fiber contributes to the loss of taxa over generations, and may be responsible for the lower-diversity microbiota observed in the industrialized world compared to present-day hunter-gatherers and rural agrarians," the Stanford team writes. "The data we present also hint that further deterioration of the Western microbiota is possible."