Have you heard of the ‘cheat day’? If you have been unfortunate enough to have tried several different diets, you would have come across it. The rationale behind it, and rightly so, is that if you are relying on self-discipline to stick to a healthy diet, you need a break every once in a while. Hence – the cheat meal, or the cheat day. And it makes sense too. Let’s not downplay the logic of this.
While it is often touted as an acceptable part of a good diet, which I also agree with, there is another camp that does not support this idea at all. And now they have some research to support their case. Fortunately, this research centres on gut health as opposed to body weight as an outcome measure. While this may be the case, Granite Fitness Blog is always fair and objective, so let’s check it out in more detail.
The research team from the University of New South Wales were testing the hypothesis of whether yo-yo dieting could affect gut bacteria. As this was new research, it was tested on rats and not humans. The findings of this research indicated that rats which had ‘junk food’ in a way that emulates a weekend binge had not only increased in fat mass, their gut also had less good bacteria.
One thing that the researchers found that was significant for arguing their case was that some known species of good bacteria were lost after constant weekend binges. One of this which you might have heard of before is lactobacillus. This bacterium plays an important role in protecting the gut in both rats and humans.
How does this relate to humans though? In the world of science, it is accepted that in general a human’s gut flora is set up as early as birth, but other environmental factors can influence it to a certain extent. There is even research on whether gut health can influence brain function.
With that point in mind, poor gut health has the potential to affect people’s mental health, more specifically depression and anxiety. As mentioned before though, this type of evidence is difficult to gather and the research is still ongoing. But if that was found to be true, then it links back to the idea that having cheat days can be as detrimental to our health as a consistently bad diet.
Another way gut health can relate to overall health is based on outcomes such as asthma, bowel and inflammatory diseases. This is the subject of research being undertaken by the University of Queensland, which focuses on investigating the role of particular molecules, such as short chain fatty acids, on gut health.
There is plenty left to be said about this topic, but a lot of it will require a detailed scientific explanation that is beyond the scope of this article. Personally, I still do not subscribe to the notion of cheat days being bad. However, my mindset may be changed if the research does provide evidence that it does. After all, we are all learning and growing, aren’t we?
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