We are what we eat

Me, pregnant, eating

Food plays a fundamental role for our health in different ways: some food components are direct source for our metabolism, others have a regulatory role and others are used by the microbiome in our gut.

Nutrients found in food have a role in preventing or induce several pathological affections, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus.

All living organisms require a large number of compounds to grow. Plants, which cannot move, capture preys and run from predators, are characterized by a rich chemical composition. They produce a lot of so-called “secondary metabolites”, which have mainly a defense purpose, but can be used by human. Some of the best known secondary metabolites produced by plants and used by human (not necessary for health purpose) are: cocaine, codeine, caffeine, nicotine, and polyphenols. Animals need to eat plants also for other compounds, they cannot produce by themselves, such as ascorbic acid and omega-3 and 6.

A typical new year’s resolution is to start a diet. What people usually do is to open their browser and google a diet. Usually people look for a miraculous diet, like “loose 10 kg in 1 months”, or “this is the diet which help [insert famous person’s name] to loose 25 kg”. The truth is that all these diets are based on the same principle: cut the calories you ingest. The principle per se is not wrong, you loose weight if you eat fewer calories than you burn.

The big problem is HOW these diets make you cut the calories. Most of them make you cut completely carbs, or prevent you from eating fats.

In the short run, they work. You do loose weight. But, 1) not in a healthy way, 2) you probably will regain all the weight you lost, and maybe more.

In 2016 Thaiss and collaboratots published on Nature a paper in which they studied the microbiome of obese people before and after a diet. They found that there is a particular intestinal microbiome signature that contributes to weight regain after a diet. Researchers suggest that a microbiome-targeting approach could help obese with their disorder.

If you plan to start a diet, please, don’t do it by your own, but seek help from a professional figure. The guideline is to introduce less calories, but eat a variety of food and plenty of vegetables and fruit.

And of you want to look for information online, please visit reliable websites, like the ones of World Health Organization or the British Nutrition Foundation.


Barabàsi et al., “The unmapped chemical complexity of our diet”, (2020), https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-019-0005-1

Thaisse et al., “Persistent microbiome alterations modulate the rate of post-dieting weight regain”, (2016), https://doi.org/10.1038/nature20796

A healthy diet accordingly to WHO: https://www.who.int/behealthy/healthy-diet and the British Nutrition Foundation: https://bit.ly/35O6act

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