A comprehensive study conducted at UC Riverside shows that high-fat diets are much worse than previously thought. We already knew that high-fat diets were associated with obesity, colon cancer, and irritable bowel. However, the new study adds a number of other ailments to that list, including immune system dysfunction, improper brain functioning, and even COVID-19 risk.
Unlike previous studies, this research focused on an in-depth examination of the effects of high-fat diets, utilizing mice as subjects and feeding them three different diets over a span of 24 weeks, where at least 40% of the calories came from fat.
The study delved into not only the changes in the animals’ microbiomes but also genetic alterations in all four parts of the intestines. Surprisingly, all three high-fat diet groups, irrespective of the fat source, exhibited concerning changes in gene expression. These changes encompassed genes related to fat metabolism, the composition of gut bacteria, susceptibility to infectious diseases, and an increase in stem cell activity in the colon.
Notably, all three high-fat diets, which included saturated fat from coconut oil, monounsaturated modified soybean oil, and unmodified soybean oil high in polyunsaturated fat, demonstrated an increase in the expression of ACE2 and other host proteins. These proteins are utilized by COVID-19 spike proteins to enter the body, suggesting a potential link between high-fat diets and an increased risk of COVID-19.
Lead researcher Frances Sladek highlighted the misconception that plant-based diets are universally healthier, emphasizing that a high-fat diet, even if plant-based, can have adverse effects on various aspects of health. The study revealed that changes in the microbiome were more pronounced in mice fed the soybean oil diet, underlining the negative health implications of high soybean oil consumption.
While the study was conducted in mice, the findings are concerning, given that soybean oil is the most commonly consumed oil in the United States and is increasingly prevalent in other countries like Brazil, China, and India.
Researchers hope that the study prompts individuals to scrutinize their long-term high-fat dietary habits, considering the potential impact on the immune system and brain function. They emphasize that exercise alone may not be sufficient to counteract these adverse effects, urging a closer examination of dietary choices for sustained health and well-being.