Is A Low Carb Diet Bad For Your Gut Bacteria?

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gut bacteria, low carb

A low carb diet is no doubt one of the most effective ways to lose weight these days. Going low carb will not only help you to shed those extra pounds but it can also help to improve your overall health. However, a recent study subject to alarmist headlines in the media suggests that low carb diets wreak havoc on your gut bacteria.

This is truly upsetting especially for those who are following a low carb diet. But let’s find out if there is any truth behind this and if this is also applicable to the keto diet, one of the most popular low carb diets.

Is A Low Carb Diet Bad For Your Gut Bacteria?

Study Conducted on Gut Simulator

To perform the study, a group of researchers created an artificial intestine, also known as the “gut simulator”. They used fecal samples provided by donors in order to replicate the kind of bacterial environment that’s inside the human colon.

The researchers then added some nutrients coming from a balanced Western diet and from low-carb diets that consist mainly of fats with no protein or carbs. After this, the group of scientists used a wide range of cutting-edge technology in examining and measuring the overall composition of the metabolites as a result of modifying the nutrients.

Results of the Study

The results of the study found that by switching to a high-fat, no carb, no protein diet from a normal balanced diet, the strains of bacteria which metabolize fatty acids. was increased but  the production of short-chain fatty acids was lowered.

Why is this important? When gut bacteria break down carbohydrates they release short-chain fatty acids which help to reduce inflammation in the gut and the risk of bowel cancer

In addition, the high fat diet was shown to lower good bacteria like Bacteroides, Roseburia, and Clostridium, and these bacteria are responsible for the degrading carbs and proteins.

The authors indicated that changing your diet to a fat-only diet could reduce the production of antioxidants and short chain fatty acids that are responsible for fighting aging and preventing the damage against DNA.

According to Dr. Oleg Paily, the corresponding author of the study:

“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.”

The Gut Microbiome and the Low Carb Keto Diet

Given the results of the study, you might find yourself wondering if a low carb, ketogenic diet is indeed harmful to your gut. However, an article by The Hyperbiotics Team talks about both the Paleo and keto diet being good for your gut health. As stated in the article,

“While the diets are not designed specifically with gut health in mind, they do include many elements that make your microbes happy.”

The article also talks about the many benefits of the keto and Paleo diet for the gut. It also stated that in order to optimize your keto diet, you must ensure that your body will be able to absorb the nutrients from the fats that you eat and you need to eat the right kinds of fats.

It should also be noted that the study mentioned above used a high fat and no carb diet.  As you may know the ketogenic diet is a diet that does include some carbohydrates although at a lower level than usual and also requires eating protein. In fact, good quality protein is an important component of the keto diet as is healthy forms of fat.

As Chris Kresser points out

THERE ARE A LOT OF REASONS NOT TO TRUST STUDIES THAT SUGGEST THAT ALL FAT HARMS GUT HEALTH—AND THERE ARE EVEN MORE REASONS TO TAKE MOST NUTRITIONAL RESEARCH WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. KEEP READING TO FIND OUT WHY THE LATEST RESEARCH DOESN’T ALWAYS PAINT A CLEAR PICTURE OF HOW YOUR DIET IMPACTS YOUR HEALTH.

I have to point out that he does go on to say:

On a very-low-carb or keto diet, in some cases for some people, depending on how they go about it, their fermentable fiber intake would be lower and they may actually experience some consequences from that in terms of their gut flora.

Then Kresser goes on to say:

I will point out that I think there are at least some lines of evidence suggesting that, at least in some cases, a very-low-carb or ketogenic diet may not be optimal for the gut flora over the long term.

There obviously have to be more long term studies on this but it’s certainly food for thought!

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