A high-fat, high-sugar diet does more than pump calories into your body. It also alters the composition of bacteria in your intestines, making it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it, research in mice suggests. And the changeover can happen in as little as 24 hours, according to a report Wednesday in the new journal Science Translational Medicine.
Many factors play a role in the propensity to gain weight, including genetics, physical activity and the environment, as well as food choices. But a growing body of evidence, much of it accumulated by Dr. Jeffrey I. Gordon of Washington University in St. Louis, shows that bacteria in the gut also play a key role.
Humans need such bacteria to help convert otherwise indigestible foods into digestible form.
Ninety percent of the bacteria fall into two major divisions, or phyla: the Firmicutes and the Bacteroidetes. Previous research had shown that obese mice had higher levels of Firmicutes, and lean ones had more Bacteroidetes.
Analyzing the genomes of the bacteria, Gordon and graduate student Peter Turnbaugh concluded that the Firmicutes were more efficient at digesting food that the body can't.