Processed foods are killing the complex community of gut bacteria that protect against obesity, heart disease and cancer, a leading food scientist has warned.
Professor Tim Spector, a researcher at King’s College and the author of 700 academic papers on nutrition and obesity, makes the claim in a new book The Diet Myth.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme this week, Spector said: “Certain things we know that are bad for us, like junk food, may not be causing problems because they contain a bit too much fat, salt or sugar but because they’re depressing our gut bacteria – which are lower down in our intestines – of much needed nutrients, because they’re waiting for the fibre and diverse range of foods they live off. Sadly our Western diets don’t contain them.
Spector says that it isn’t just so called ‘junk food’ that is the culprit, but processed food more widely. “Processed food only contains about four main ingredients ands most of it never reaches our friends waiting for it in the lower gut, who are desperate to turn normal nutrients into vitamins and good metabolites for our blood, and chemicals that help our immune system and keep us healthy.”
“We really need to stop this modern trend of cutting out certain foods and everyone getting a narrower and narrower spectrum of food”
Spector’s prescription for good health is simple: “Eat real food, but above all eat diverse foods – that’s what our ancestors did. We really need to stop this modern trend of cutting out certain foods and everyone getting a narrower and narrower spectrum of food.”