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Low Fibre Intake Could Mean Future Generations Will Go Without Vital Gut Bacteria

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Your doctor seems to have an endless list of things you should be doing, but upping your fibre intake is one you should listen to, not just for your sake, but for your great-great-grandkids.

A study from Stanford University published Jan. 13 by Stanford found that if we limit our fibre intake now, future generations will be born with fewer types of vital gut microbes.

Fibre is a catchall term for the parts of plants that our bodies can't digest. But these different kinds of microbes (which are bacteria and other tiny organisms) living in our bodies can help.

As the Atlantic reports, there are trillions of microbes, and they don't all feed on the same things. Instead, they each specialize in different types of fibre. So, a diet filled with a variety of fibre-rich foods can sustain a diverse variety of microbes, while a low-fibre diet can only keep a smaller community.

This gut bacteria doesn't just process fibre, but it also helps us make vitamins, break down foods and unusual chemicals, and protects from certain infections.

Everything from the food we eat to how we're born can affect the amount of gut bacteria and other microbes we have, according to National Geographic.

For this Stanford study, researchers Justin and Erica Sonnenburg and their team compared mice and found that if a mother starts off with just a small collection of microbes, it will be more difficult for her children to produce a diverse set of gut bacteria for themselves, writes Quartz.

There have been several studies comparing humans from different parts of the world with different diets, and in places like North America, where a diet rich in protein and fat is common, people have fewer microbes than populations which have fibre-rich foods as a staple in their diet. This study, for example, compared the Hadza tribe living in Tanzania. Erica Sonnenburg pointed out to Quartz that the Hadza isn't afflicted by certain western diseases, such as cancer and diabetes.

Fortunately, there may be hope. The Sonnenburgs also found that mice who were on low-fibre diets were able to repopulate their microbes once they switched to a higher fibre diet.

If you personally find it difficult to get enough high-fibre fruits and veggies in, try out these shortcuts on how to sneak in more.

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