A new study reveals that a high-fat/refined carbohydrate diet can lead to intestinal inflammation in obesity.


In North America, obesity prevalence is very high. In the US, 1/3 of adults were obese in 2011-2012 and Canada, 1/4 of adults were obese in 2011-2012.  It is well known that consumption of a high-fat/refined carbohydrate diet, a common high-caloric cafeteria diet, contributes to obesity. Also, this “cafeteria diet” can lead to other obesity-associated symptoms such as a leaky gut and intestinal inflammation. Intestinal inflammation is a result of different enzymes, immune cells, inflammatory factors, and reactive oxygen species. Eventually, this can lead to leakage of water, protein, and bacterial endotoxins out of intestinal tract, a leaky gut, which is a common symptom of an obese patient. Despite all this knowledge, it is still not well known how poor nutrition can impact gastrointestinal tract health in obesity.

A new study in the British Journal of Nutrition explored the impact of a high-fat/refined carbohydrate (cafeteria diet) on the gut health in diet-induced obesity and genetic obesity. Researchers fed normal rats a standard diet and cafeteria diet for 12-17 weeks, genetically-induced obese rats only standard diet for 10 weeks, and examined their body weight, metabolic alterations, and small intestine. As expected, rats with cafeteria diets gained more weight and showed higher glucose, insulin, and lipid levels than rats with standard diets. Also, rats that consumed cafeteria diets showed an increase in intestinal inflammation (increase in immune cells and inflammatory factors) after 14 weeks, and after 17 weeks of cafeteria diet, the rats showed a higher level of reactive oxygen species and signs of a leaky gut. Interestingly, genetically-induced obese rats with the standard diet did not show an increase in reactive oxygen species, and they had lesser signs of inflammation (increase in inflammatory factors only) and a leaky gut. This result revealed that a cafeteria diet, which provides poor nutrition, is one of the key factors responsible for intestinal inflammation and oxidative stress associated with obesity on top of genetic factors.

Bad food can lead to weight gain, but more importantly, it can lead to bad intestinal health. The healthy intestinal tract is essential for digestion, availability of nutrients, and immunity – key components of good health. Choosing a simple, healthy meal over that greasy cafeteria food for lunch may lead to a healthy gut and a healthy body.


Written By: Boram Ham, PhD

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