Are We Passing Down Our Damaged Microbiomes to Future Generations?

You might have heard that eating a typical western diet (one that is high in processed carbs and sugars and low in dietary fibre) is harmful to your gut microbes.

In 2010, for instance, researchers demonstrated this when they compared the diets and gut microbiota of European children (EU) with those of children in Burkina Faso (BF), a rural African village. They discovered that the gut microbiomes of the EU children were less diverse than those of the BF children. The researchers determined that this was due to the fact that, unlike the EU children, the BF children ate a diet rich in fibre – one quite similar to that which people ate at the dawn of the agricultural age.

Having this greater microbial diversity, the BF children were able to better maximize their energy intake from fibers, and were better protected from inflammation and non-infectious diseases of the colon.

Many scientists have known for some time that dietary fibre is essential to a well-functioning gut microbiome. But now, a recent study has revealed that a low fibre diet doesn’t simply damage your microbiome, it can also greatly impact the gut health of generations to come – to the degree of microbial extinction.

In this study, researchers examined mice that had been populated with human gut microbiota and found, like the previous scientists, that when placed on a low fibre diet, gut microbiomes become less diverse.

However, their study further and more importantly showed that while these changes could be reversed within a single generation by returning the mice to a high fibre diet, over several generations, a low fibre diet resulted in a “progressive loss of diversity, which is not recoverable after the re-introduction of [dietary fibre]“(my emphasis). The researchers claim that the former diversity can only restored by re-introducing the missing microbes back into the gut while bumping up the fibre intake to a more optimal level.

To think that what we are consuming right now can so greatly impact the lives of generations to come – that our food choices can literally wipe out essential bacteria for everyone that comes after us, putting them at risk for chronic disease!

And these findings are only based on low fibre consumption. Can you imagine the impact that antibiotics, pesticides, radiation and toxins will have and have already had on following generations? With this in mind, it makes a great deal of sense why so many people in the western world today suffer from poor gut health and chronic disease symptoms.

What we choose to put in our bodies today is so important for the children of tomorrow. If we nurture the microbial diversity we have left and do our best to improve upon it, we will be setting up our children and all future generations with the best possible health so that they will have the opportunity to live full, rich, happy and healthy lives.


“Diet-induced extinctions in the gut microbiota compound over generations.” Nature 529, p. 212–215.

“Impact of diet in shaping gut microbiota revealed by a comparative study in children from Europe and rural Africa.” PNAS, Vol. 107, No. 3, August 17, 2010.

Image: Canva

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