A diet high in fat is associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and some cancers. British scientists, however, have found one thing a fatty diet is good at preventing: worms.
Whipworms, to be precise. This is a parasitic worm that can infect the large intestine and cause digestive distress. That includes nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and bloody stool. It’s usually not fatal. But it can lead to anemia if untreated.
The worms are a particular problem in the developing world where sanitation is poor. The eggs of the whipworm are transmitted in feces, making areas without adequate sewage treatment vulnerable.
The findings about fatty foods came as a surprise to researchers. They discovered fatty foods trigger an increase in a type of molecule on immune cells that work to eliminate the parasite.
Researchers say this is an important lesson about how diet can have profound impacts on the body. The findings also might provide clues about treatments for the millions of people who are infected.
But don’t get cocky about the health benefits of your junk food diet just yet. Previous research has shown that weight loss helps eliminate a different kind of parasite.
Of course, since the whipworm isn’t a serious health threat in the United States, it behooves most people to avoid fatty foods to protect their health.
A few facts about the whipworm. The name derives from its long and narrow tail, which looks like, you guessed it, a whip. The parasite has a lifespan of up to three years, with females capable of laying 20,000 eggs a day.
In other words, it’s one of the last things in the world anyone wants in their gut.