Seagulls get addicted to junk food - just like humans.

Scientists found birds living in towns and cities are ditching insects, worms, grubs and berries for leftover bits of burger, pizza, chicken nuggets and chips.

Dr Aimeric Teyssier, of Ghent University in Belgium, said the fatty diets are now endangering their health, and leading to more attacks on Brits tucking into their food.

He said: “Our study suggests the westernisation of human diets may also have negative impacts on urban animals.”

High-fat diets can hurt the good bacteria in the gulls' guts

High-fat diets are known to hurt good gut bacteria in humans - lowering metabolism and causing a host of health problems.

But now the same phenomenon has been identified in our feathered friends for the first time.

Tests on 114 birds showed those fed urban diets were left with less good bacteria in their gut than those given natural high fibre food.

The birds were randomly given either an “urban diet” of bread, cake and potato chips or a “rural” alternative composed of maize, wheat, sunflower seed and worms.

Read More

Today's Top Stories

Dr Teyssier said: “Overall, the rural diet caused an increase in microbiota diversity whereas the urban diet led to reductions, with the strongest decrease impacting rural birds fed on an urban diet.

“Overall, our results indicate diet constitutes an important factor contributing to differences in gut microbiota and provide new insights on possible fitness consequences of reduced diversity in urban settings.”

The data suggests people’s appetite for junk food is harming the health of birds - and other animals that share our neighbourhood.

Data shows the unhealthy appetite of people is affecting the birds

Dr Teyssier said: “A broader perspective brought by this study is by providing urban dwellers access to processed, low-fibre food, the industrialisation and westernisation of human diets could possibly induce collateral negative effects on other species found in urban environments.”

Seagull attacks have increased dramatically in recent years, with seaside visitors particularly targeted by birds desperate for their junk food fix.

Their addiction is one of the reasons they have become more brazen in taking on humans for their grub.