First, a refresher on the low-carb, high-fat diet - it’s great for weight loss, boosts the metabolism and improves cardiovascular and cognitive function. Now, for the catch:
Eating like this can do serious damage to the gut.
To conduct the study (published in the journal Applied And Environmental Microbiology,) scientists designed an artificial intestine and used donor faecal matter to recreate the bacterial environment found inside the human colon. Next, they added nutrients from a balanced Western diet as well as one that was rich in fact and involved no carbs or protein.
They also applied cutting-edge tech to measure the composition of metabolites before and after the change in nutrients.Their findings?
The high-fat, low-carb diet increased the prevalence of certain strains of bacteria that metabolise fatty acids. It also lowered the number of good bacteria needed to break down protein and carbs.
“[This] led to a substantial decrease in the production of [short-chain fatty acids] and antioxidants in the colonic region of the gut, which might potentially have negative health consequences on the host,” explained Dr Oleg Paliy, associate professor at Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine and the study’s lead author.
Said short-chain fatty acids and antioxidants help fight DNA damage and ageing, while “intestinal microbes mediate many dietary effects on human health.”
“There, most of these compounds are fermented by gut bacteria. This happens because a significant proportion of dietary carbohydrates, proteins and fats escape digestion in the small intestine and reach the colon, a section of the gut housing a dense population of microbes.”