Getting kids to consistently make healthy choices can be difficult for many parents, and now a new study is showing that a child’s diet can have lasting impacts into adulthood.
According to researchers from the University of California at Riverside, what kids eat during childhood can affect their health as they grow and develop. They learned consuming a lot of sugar or fat during childhood can affect gut health for years down the road.
“We studied mice, but the effect we observed is equivalent to kids having a Western diet, high in fat and sugar and their gut microbiome still being affected up to six years after puberty,” said researcher Theodore Garland.
Long-term effects on gut health
For the study, the researchers divided mice into four groups based on different diet and exercise routines. The mice were either fed a traditionally healthy or unhealthy diet, and some were given access to exercise while others had no option of physical activity. The mice kept these routines for three weeks before returning to their regular diet and exercise habits, and the researchers monitored the mice’s gut health for more than three months post-experiment.
The researchers learned that both diet and exercise played a role in the mice’s gut health beyond the length of the experiment. When the gut is functioning properly, there is a mix of bacteria that all contribute to the body’s overall health and wellness; however, for the mice that were given the unhealthy diet in early life, there was very little diversity in the gut later on.
While diet had the biggest impact on the mice’s gut health long-term, the researchers learned that exercise also played a role. The variety of bacteria found in the gut was greater when the mice exercised, but it was the greatest when mice both exercised and followed a healthy diet.
These findings are important when thinking about healthy development. The researchers explained that the risk of disease increases when there is an imbalance of bacteria in the gut.