A high-fat diet encourages the growth of fungi in the gut, which makes for an unhealthy microbiota and contributes to obesity, study finds

A study finds that eating a diet high in fat not only gives you extra calories, but also changes the growth of fungi in the gut, which makes for an unhealthy microbiota and contributes to weight gain or obesity, as reported by the Science Daily.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota conducted the study by using two groups of mice. One group was fed with a diet high in fat, while the other was fed with a normal diet. They found that the group of mice fed with a high-fat diet had a higher number of 19 bacterial and six fungal taxa, compared to the micriobiome found in the group of mice with a normal diet. Moreover, they discovered that the rats fed with a high-fat diet had slower metabolic function, in which they gained weight and showed other symptoms of obesity such as insulin resistance, than those rats with a normal dietary plan.

Cheryl Gale, lead author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, explained that the relationship of fungi and changes in diet are changing as well as the relationship between fungi and bacteria.

“These kingdoms are not in isolation. If one changes, it is going to impact the community structure and maybe the functional structure of other kingdoms as well. I think that is where the microbiome field is moving,” she said.

Over the years of analyzing the relationship of gut microbiomes and health, past studies have found that microbes in the gut change the way we store fat, how we balance glucose levels in the blood, and how we respond to hormones that change our appetites. On the other hand, the wrong mix of microbes in the gut seem to play important roles in the development of obesity and diabetes. (Related: How gut bacteria can make you fat, or help you lose weight.)

“We really need to be looking at all the microbes and how they are interacting with each other to get a full picture of what the microbiome structure and function is in a given individual,” said Gale.

The study was published in mSphere, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Fast facts on obesity

You are obese or overweight if there is an energy imbalance between the calories you consume and the calories you spend. Unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, and genetics are the main causes of obesity. Overweight adults have a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 25, while obese adults have a BMI greater than or equal to 30, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the WHO, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight, while 650 million of them were obese in 2016 worldwide. Meanwhile in the United States, the prevalence of obesity among adults was 36.5 percent in 2011 to 2014, according to the records of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke — which were the leading cause of death in 2012. It also increases the chances of having diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, such as osteoarthritis, and some cancers including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon.

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