Posted on Oct 08, 2019, 11 p.m.
Most people don’t really think about the history of our ancestors put the first piece of meat on a flame and how it opened up new possibilities through the ages, but this may have permanently altered the course of evolution for the human microbiome.
Most people also don’t like to put much thought into the fact that humans are actually swarming with bacteria. We are literally breeding grounds for bacteria, among them vast colonies have set up shop in our gastrointestinal tract, and billions more reside on our skin; all of these microbes make up the collective microbiome.
Many things such as the risk for depression to weight gain are affected by gut bacteria, as such scientists are trying to understand all of the important roles that the microbiome plays in our health and wellbeing. Research from the University of California and Harvard University has found that cooked food can actually alter the microbiome of humans and mice.
“Our lab and others have studied how different kinds of diet — such as vegetarian versus meat-based diets — impact the microbiome,” said Peter Turnbaugh, the senior author of the study. “We were surprised to discover that no one had studied the fundamental question of how cooking itself alters the composition of the microbial ecosystems in our guts.”
Mice were fed a diet of either raw meat, cooked meat, raw sweet potatoes, and cooked sweet potatoes; results showed that there was little difference between the microbiomes of animals given raw or cooked meat, but when it came to the sweet potatoes changes were observed in the composition and gene activity of the microbiomes of those animals. In additional studies mice were then fed cooked sweet potatoes, white potatoes, corn, peas, carrots, and beets to confirm their findings.
The differences in microbiome linked to the raw diet versus cooked food persisted and were considerable. Cooked tubers allow the consumer to absorb more calories in the small intestine, while raw foods have antimicrobial compounds that can damage bacteria, according to the researchers.
As published in the journal Nature Microbiology human participants were also given either a diet of cooked or raw foods for three days, and stool samples were analyzed to investigate whether the diets would affect human microbiomes in the same way that the mice had been; similar results were also observed.
“It was exciting to see that the impact of cooking we see in rodents is also relevant to humans, although interestingly, the specifics of how the microbiome was affected differed between the two species,” said Turnbaugh. “We’re very interested in doing larger and longer intervention and observational studies in humans to understand the impact of longer-term dietary changes.”
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.