African apes have a far more diverse set of microbes in their guts than humans, and that gap may be growing larger. Conditions such as asthma, colon cancer, and autoimmune diseases have been linked to a lack of microbial diversity. Some researchers blame the changes in our guts to the gradual shift to more meat and fewer plants in our diets.
“In apparently only hundreds of years—and possibly a lot fewer—people in the United States lost a great deal of diversity in the bacteria living in their gut,” said Howard Ochman of the University of Texas, who compared the microbes in chimps and humans.
Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut can improve your microbial diversity, as can probiotic supplements. Click here for a closer look at probiotics and their substantial health benefits.