A Sad Way to Eat

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High-fat diets alter the intestinal microbiome that in turns affects mood and behavior, state researchers at Louisiana State University. In this study, healthy adult mice maintained on normal diets received transplants of gut microbiota from donor mice that had been fed high-fat or control diets. The recipient mice were monitored for changes in mental function and behavior. Results showed that mice who received the microbiota shaped by high-fat diets showed multiple problems in behavior, including increased anxiety, impaired memory, and repetitive behaviors. They also had increased intestinal permeability and markers of inflammation. Signs of inflammation in the brain may have contributed to the behavioral changes. The researchers conclude that, “…high-fat diets impair brain health, in part, by disrupting the symbiotic relationship between humans and the microorganisms that occupy our gastrointestinal tracks.” These changes occur even in the absence of obesity.

In Perspective: The microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms, many if not most, reside in the intestinal tract. These microbiota are critical for normal physiological function and may contribute to the host’s susceptibility to illness. According to this study and a growing body of research, the characteristics of this microbiota also impact cognition and behavior.

Bruce-Keller A, Salbaum J, Luo M, et al: Obese-type gut microbiota induce neurobehavioral changes in the absence of obesity. Biological Psychiatry 2015;77:607.

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