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Effects of ultra-processed foods on the microbiota-gut-brain axis: The bread-and-butter issue

Song Z, Song R, Liu Y, Wu Z, Zhang X (2023) Food Research International May;167:112730 doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2023.112730 

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The topic of gut microbiota and the microbiota-gut-brain (MGB) axis has become the forefront of research and reports in the past few years.

The gut microbiota is a dynamic interface between the environment, food, and the host, reflecting the health status as well as maintaining normal physiological metabolism.

Modern ultra-processed foods (UPF) contain large quantities of saturated and trans fat, added sugar, salt, and food additives that seriously affect the gut and physical health. In addition, these unhealthy components directly cause changes in gut microbiota functions and microbial metabolism, subsequently having the potential to impact the neural network.

This paper provides an overview of the link between UPF ingredients and the MGB axis. Considerable studies have examined that high intake of trans fat, added sugar and salt have deleterious effects on gut and brain functions, but relatively less focus has been placed on the impact of food additives on the MGB axis.

Data from several studies suggest that food additives might be linked to metabolic diseases and inflammation. They may also alter the gut microbiota composition and microbial metabolites, which potentially affect cognition and behavior. Therefore, we emphasize that food additives including emulsifiers, artificial sweeteners, colorants, and preservatives interact with the gut microbiota and their possible effects on altering the brain and behavior based on the latest research.

Future studies should further investigate whether gut dysbiosis mediates the effect of UPF on brain diseases and behavior. This thesis here sheds new light on future research pointing to the potentially detrimental effects of processed food consumption on brain health.


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