In Defense of Fiber: How Changing Your Diet Changes Your Gut Bacteria

TIME

You no longer live in a world where you can pretend you’re only eating for one; the trillions of bacteria in your gut, we now know, also feed on what you put in your mouth—and they behave very differently depending on what that is.

It’s increasingly clear that the composition of your gut bacteria likely influences your risk for many health problems, from obesity and type-2 diabetes and even certain autoimmune diseases. Scientists are hard at work trying to determine how and why that’s that case, as well as which bacteria are beneficial—and how to protect them. A recent study published in The BMJ adds to the growing evidence that fiber might be a critical gut-nourishing nutrient. (Unfortunately, less than 3% of Americans eat the government-recommended amount daily.)

“You really hold the reins to guiding this community [of bacteria] through the choices you make,” says Justin L. Sonnenburg, PhD…

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