You're probably already thinking about how your dietary choices affect your heart health and your blood pressure, but the impacts of the foods you eat on your overall health extend further than you may know. Your diet can impact your sleep schedule, your brain health, and even your sex drive. Now, new research finds that eating a diet high in fat and sugar over a long period of time can leave you at risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer.
In the study, published in the journal Nature Metabolism, researchers looked at 27,000 intestinal cells from mice, some of which were fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet meant to imitate the western diet, and others of which were fed a control diet. Using machine learning technology, researchers found that the stem cells in the intestines of the mice fed the high-fat, high-sugar diet divided more quickly, noting that this fast division can promote gastrointestinal (GI) cancer's development and growth. In short, the mice ate a typical western-style diet, the stem cells in their guts divided more quickly, which could put them in increased danger for certain cancers.
For context, GI cancer, according to Yale Medicine, is a term that encompasses multiple cancers in the GI tract, including esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and liver cancer, among others. While this study was conducted on mice, its results offer the hope that changing your diet might help fight off these dangerous conditions.
Plus, cancers are not the only risk to your gastrointestinal health, and switching from a high-fat, high-sugar diet to a more gut-friendly one can help you protect this vital system, lowering your risk for a range of other symptoms and diseases.
"When we eat, we're not just feeding ourselves—we're feeding the trillions of microbes living inside of our guts, known as the gut microbiota," Colleen D. Webb, MS, RDN, a nutritionist specializing in gastrointestinal health, told Eat This, Not That! In an interview. "This 'forgotten organ' strongly influences GI health and plays a key role in disease development and progression, with its effects extending well beyond the gut. The best diets for a healthy gut microbiota are ones that are full of whole or minimally processed plants, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds."
For more on eating your way to a healthy gut, consider getting familiar with these Popular Foods That Improve Your Gut Health, Says Science.