Key Message

Low fibre diets can lead to a decrease in gut bacteria which is vital to maintaining good health.

Action Points

Be mindful and make simple changes to your everyday life. Include high fibre foods to your diet such as oats, lentils, beans and spinach.

Thinking of doing a FODMAP or Ketogenic Diet?

Having a diverse and robust collection of bacteria in your gut is vital to maintaining good health. It fends off pathogens, strengthens the immune system, and helps guide the development of tissues. Unfortunately, a combination of an overly hygienic lifestyle and a lack of fibre is leading to a sharp, and possibly permanent decline in your gut bacteria.

Recent research compiled by the Stanford University Medical Centre has revealed some interesting consequences of the low fibre diet that most of us now consume. With the growing number of processed convenience foods since the mid-20th century, the average per capita fibre consumption has decreased.

Current Australian recommendations are to consume 25-30g of fibre every day, and most of us actually only have around 15g.

It has long been agreed by health experts that low fibre diets are not great, but the full extent of why, is only now being realised. Other than regularity, it turns out that one of the main benefits of fibre is as a food course for bacteria. Specifically, the bacteria in our large intestine.

What does the Research Say?

Stanford researchers bred a group of mice in an antiseptic environment, which unlike normal mice (or humans), they had intestines free from any microbial inhabitants. They then had their gut populated artificially with gut bacteria from humans. These mice were then split into two groups, a high fibre diet group, and a no fibre diet group. After several weeks, the fibre group showed a marked increase in gut bacteria, whilst the no fibre group showed a steady decline. Even after being reintroduced to fibre rich diets, sufficient damage had been caused to the bacteria levels that they did not recover. Even more amazingly, this lack of bacterial activity persisted through generations. Without this gut bacteria, the mice were unable to pass on these vital inhabitants to their offspring.

The takeaway from this research is two-fold: Firstly, a low fibre diet is not ideal. And secondly, a few simple tweaks in our cultural practices, for example not washing hands after gardening and staying away from overuse of antibiotics could be a step in the right direction.


Erica D. Sonnenburg, Samuel A. Smits, Mikhail Tikhonov, Steven K. Higginbottom, Ned S. Wingreen, Justin L. Sonnenburg. Diet-induced extinctions in the gut microbiota compound over generations. Nature, 2016; 529 (7585): 212 DOI: 10.1038/nature16504. Viewed online 27 January 2016 athttp://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160113160657.htm

sandra Written by: Sandra Di Giacomo

Sandra Di Giacomo

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