Junk food destroys vital bacteria that helps keep us thin, says a leading researcher.

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Professor Tim Spector thinks this somewhat explains our rising obesity levels. He says that a diet that prompts the growth of a range of bacteria could be, simply as effective for weight loss as cutting down on fat and sugar. And it could be anything from celery, garlic, unpasteurised cheese, to small portions of dark chocolate and, bizarrely, Belgian beer.

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Just a week back experts from the World Health Organisation warned that no less than two-thirds of British women and three-quarters of men would be obese or overweight by 2030. Professor Spector of King’s College London, who specialises in genetic epidemiology, opines one reason obesity levels are rising is because the range of bacteria in our guts has reduced.

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He estimates in the last 50 years the range of bacteria in our small intestines have come down dramatically, due to our habit of eating processed food. He did a unique experiment – in it his 23-year-old son Tom consented to have only McDonald’s burgers, chicken nuggets, chips and Coke for tens day consecutively.

Scientists took samples from Tom’s gut prior to and later on to roughly calculate the number of different species of bacteria. They found that at the start there were 3,500 species but in the next 10 days this dropped by 1,300 species.

Professor Spector said: ‘Microbes get a bad press, but only a few of the millions of species are harmful and many are crucial to our health. ‘Microbes (bacteria) are not only essential to how we digest food; they control the calories we absorb and provide vital enzymes and vitamins. ‘It is clear that the more diverse your diet, the more diverse your microbes and the better your health at any age.’

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Professor Spector thinks the diet which boost the range of species of bacteria in the gut is as vital as having less fat and sugar rich foods. He opined that 15,000 years ago our ancestors ate about 150 different ingredients a week and this buoyed up the growth of a range of bacteria.

Today we eat fewer than 20 different food types, and even less if our main meal consists of processed food. Professor Spector opined that all processed foods – including ready meals or fast food – are prepared using only four ingredients, corn, soy, wheat or meat.

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Promotion of a diet that’s prepared with a few ingredients will inevitably lead to more reduction in microbe diversity and to ill health, he said. Professor Spector who will soon publish a book called The Diet Myth – has also discovered that Belgian beer, garlic, coffee, leeks, celery and unpasteurised cheese all promote the growth of healthy bacteria.

Dark chocolate is full of chemicals namely polyphenols, which the bacteria feed off, and thrive – hence is beneficial.

10 DIETING MISCONCEPTIONS

Multivitamins and supplements have no real benefit instead may do harm.

There’s a strong evidence that eating plenty of fatty cheese or yoghurt can improve health and weight.

Sweeteners in ‘diet’ fizzy drinks have adverse effects on our metabolism and microbes.

In order to lessen the effects of hangovers we need to change our gut microbes.

Foods that are dubbed ‘low-fat’ in ads are actually making us fatter.
Due to changes in our diet and the use of antibiotics the range of microbes in our bodies is 30 per cent lower than fifty years ago.
Almost all probiotics in yoghurt don’t work well in humans.
Have Belgian beer, garlic, coffee and celery in order to increase gut microbes.
When two people are told to have the same diet, the results are usually quite different because of their microbes and genes.
When we increase range of our diet we get to increase our microbes, our health, happiness and lifespan.