Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Weekend Treats Undo Healthy Weekdays

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Eating well during the week only to binge on junk food over the weekend is likely to be just as bad for your gut health as a consistent diet of junk, according to a study of the gut microbiota of rats.

The human gut consists of up to 100 trillion microbial cells that influence metabolism, nutrition and immune function. Disruption of this microbiota has been linked with gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.

The new study, published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research (, indicates that “intermittent exposure to junk food 3 days a week is sufficient to extensively shift the gut microbiota towards the pattern seen in obese rats consuming the diet continuously,” said Prof Margaret Morris of The University of NSW. “While these findings are yet to be replicated in humans, those who are strict with their diet during the week may be undoing all their good work by hitting the junk food over the weekend.”

The research team compared the abundance of microbiota in rats given continuous access to either a healthy diet or junk food with a group that alternated between four healthy days and three junk food days. A range of metabolic markers, including body weight, fat mass, insulin and leptin, were also examined.


The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.