Western Diet Could Impact Gut Inflammation, Leading to Chronic Conditions

by Ella

A recent review has underscored the significant impact of the Western diet on the microbiome and how the resulting dysregulation of microbial populations can increase the risk of developing chronic conditions. Researchers from Italy published this comprehensive analysis in the journal Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology, highlighting the potential link between diet and diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Alzheimer’s disease.

Understanding the Western Diet

The Western diet, although not strictly defined, is typically characterized by low intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant-derived molecules like antioxidants. It is also marked by minimal consumption of unprocessed fruits and vegetables, whole grains, grass-fed animal products, fish, nuts, and seeds. Instead, it includes excessive amounts of saturated fats, refined grains, sugar, alcohol, processed and red meat, conventionally raised animal products, high-fat dairy products, and salt. Additionally, high quantities of ultraprocessed foods and drinks are prevalent in the Western diet.


Comparing with the Mediterranean Diet

The study contrasted the Western diet with the Mediterranean diet, which is known for its lower levels of processed foods and higher levels of fruits, vegetables, and plant-based proteins. The Mediterranean diet includes nutrient-rich plant-based foods, which are associated with better overall health outcomes.


Impact on Gut Lining

The review emphasized the crucial roles of specific gut bacteria in maintaining the integrity of the gut lining. Bacteria such as Akkermansia muciniphila and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, which are linked to greater lean muscle mass, play significant roles in this maintenance. Similarly, Bacteroides vulgatus and Bacteroides dorei are essential for gut health. However, a high-fat diet, particularly rich in saturated fats, has been shown to adversely affect the levels of these beneficial bacteria.


A low-fiber diet also reduces the production of short-chain fatty acids, which are vital for mucus production and the regulation of T-cells and other immune functions. This reduction can compromise gut health and lead to increased inflammation.


Impact on the Immune System

Certain bacteria, such as Clostridia clusters IV, XIVa, and XVIII, regulate T cells in the gut, which are crucial for immune responses. Bifidobacteria promote the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines and help maintain microvilli, which are responsible for nutrient absorption in the gut. Diets high in saturated fats are linked to lower levels of these beneficial bacteria. Additionally, artificial sweeteners are associated with reduced Bifidobacteria populations.

Influence on Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Frequent consumption of fast food has been linked to a higher risk of IBD. The review indicated that eating fast food more than once a week could increase the risk of ulcerative colitis by 43% and Crohn’s disease by 27%. High intakes of meat and fish also appear to elevate the risk of IBD, while egg and dairy consumption do not show the same effect. The review suggests that diets high in red meat, ultraprocessed foods, sugar, and saturated fats may increase the risk of developing IBD and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Diet’s Impact on Brain Health

Studies using mouse models have shown that diets high in saturated fats and sugars are associated with reduced cognitive function. Preliminary research on pre- and probiotics has indicated potential benefits for improving symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and some evidence suggests lower concentrations of specific bacterial species in individuals with major depressive disorder. However, further robust research is necessary to confirm these findings.

Obesity and Microbiome Alteration

The review explored the connection between metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and gut dysbiosis. It proposed that dysregulation of the gut barrier increases inflammation, leading to chronic conditions and a tendency to gain fat, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. While the review does not establish causation, it suggests that the Western diet’s poor nutrient quality directly contributes to systemic inflammation and obesity, while also altering the gut microbiota, which indirectly exacerbates these health issues.

Dr. Hasan Zaki, an associate professor at UT Southwestern Medical School who studies the molecular mechanisms of inflammatory disorders, noted that the alteration of the microbiome might be a separate mechanism underpinning the development of some chronic diseases. “Previously, it was considered that a high-fat diet and high sugar are bad for our health because they directly alter our body’s metabolism,” he explained.


This review highlights the complex relationship between diet, the microbiome, and chronic health conditions. The Western diet’s high levels of ultraprocessed foods, saturated fats, and sugars appear to negatively impact gut health, leading to inflammation and increased risk of various chronic diseases. By understanding these connections, individuals and healthcare providers can make informed decisions to promote healthier dietary habits and reduce the prevalence of diet-related chronic conditions.



Wellfoodrecipes is a professional gourmet portal, the main columns include gourmet recipes, healthy diet, desserts, festival recipes, meat and seafood recipes, etc.

【Contact us: [email protected]

Copyright © 2023