College Student Lives To Regret Convincing His Father To Let Him Eat Only McDonald’s
We all know McDonald’s isn’t health food, but science is still working out all the different ways fast food is bad for us. But now one researcher has given us a bit of a more complete understanding about what a diet of only McDonald’s does to a body, thanks in large part to his college-age son who agreed to act as guinea pig.
According to The Daily Meal, genetics professor Tim Spektor of King’s College in London wanted to research the effects of a quick-service diet on gut bacteria in humans.
“These are the hundred trillion microbes that outnumber our total human cells ten to one and digest our food, provide many vitamins and nutrients and keep us healthy,” Spektor wrote in his article for Quartz.
Spektor’s son Tom, a senior studying genetics at college, suggested that they run an experiment to “track the microbes as they changed from an average western diet to an intensive fast food diet for over a week.”
According to Spektor, Tom agreed to be the guinea pig in exchange for getting his father to pay for his all-McDonald’s meal plan and being able to write about the experiment for his own dissertation. For the experiment, Spektor writes:
“[Tom] was able to eat either a Big Mac or chicken nuggets, plus fries and Coke. For extra vitamins he was allowed beer and crisps in the evening. He would collect poo samples before, during and after his diet and send them to three different labs to check consistency.”
As the experiment got underway, Tom said he really enjoyed it for the first three days. Then he started to feel completely shitty. By the end of the 10 days he said he was glad to be done with it.
The return of the samples, however, told an even bigger story. According to Spektor, the McDonald’s-only diet had really done a number on Tom’s gut bacteria.
“The clearest marker of an unhealthy gut is losing species diversity,” Spektor wrote, “and after just a few days Tom had lost an estimated 1,400 species—nearly 40% of his total. The changes persisted and even two weeks after the diet his microbes had not recovered. Loss of diversity is a universal signal of ill health in the guts of obese and diabetic people and triggers a range of immunity problems in lab mice.”
Spektor says he does not imagine the results will stop people from eating fast food entirely, but he stresses the importance of eating foods that the friendly bacteria like, like fruits and vegetables, yogurt, nuts, olives, and foods with a lot of fiber. Most important, though, is diversity. Eating a lot of different kinds of foods, especially fruits and vegetables, keeps the bacteria healthy. And according to Spektor, keeping the bacteria healthy is a big step towards keeping ourselves healthy.
So eat a varied, healthful diet and try to keep your college-age kids from eating only McDonald’s at every meal, because that will help keep the gut bacteria happy, and you wouldn’t like them when they’re unhappy.