Food Preparation Has Significant Impact on Human Gut Microbiome

For the first time, scientists have demonstrated how cooking food alters the microbiome of the animals who consume it. This discovery has many implications, with scientists saying they could optimize this for human microbial health, but also to approach a new understanding of cooking, and how it could have altered the evolution of the [human] microbiome throughout history.  

In perhaps just he past few years, scientists have learned a lot more about different aspects of human health. These new discoveries, which range in condition from chronic inflammation to weight gain, appear to have a strong relationship with the ecological health of the enumerable microbes that live on and inside our bodies:  collectively known as the microbiome.  This emerging field of study continues to inspire new curiosity leading to new biomedical research to learn more about the relationship between microbiome and overall human health. 

Lead study author Dr. Peter Turnbaugh explains, “Our lab and others have studied how different kinds of diet—such as vegetarian versus meat-based diets—impact the microbiome.”

For the study, the researchers examined how cooking food changes its composition, and how these changes impact the microbiome in mice.  The researchers observed the altered microbiome of mice by feeding them diets of raw meat or cooked meat or raw sweet potatoes or cooked sweet potatoes to several groups of animals.  Surprisingly, the researchers found there was no major compositional differences between raw and cooked meat but sweet potatoes had significantly different impact on microbiome composition, dependent upon their preparation.

The associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of California-San Francisco goes on to say, “We were surprised to discover that no one had studied the fundamental question of how cooking itself alters the composition of the microbial ecosystems in our guts.”

Also a member of the executive leadership of the UCSF Benioff Center for Microbiome Medicine, Dr. Turnbaugh commented that they were surprised to see how these differences did not only come out of evolving carbohydrate metabolism but could also be driven by certain chemicals that are found in plants.  

“To me,” he adds, “This really highlights the importance of considering the other components of our diet and how they impact gut bacteria.”