Many clinical studies suggest a positive role for beneficial bacteria in obesity. However, the data collected from these studies often lacks fundamental insight, as it is impossible to perform complex studies in humans. A recent article from the University of Leuven published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, a respected journal, shows in great detail how a single bacterial species, Akkermansia muciniphila, can reduce obesity in mice.
A. muciniphila is bacterial species that normally resides in the gut of mice and men, compromising 3-5% of the microbial community. This species is known to nestle in and degrade the mucus that collects on the intestinal walls. Before this study, it was already known that there were associations between the abundance of this bacteria with weight and type I diabetes.
Akkermansia Probiotic Supplementation Reduces Obesity
To prove that the bacteria were responsible for countering obesity, the researchers fed mice a high fat diet and then supplemented them with A. muciniphila. The results were striking. Providing 200 million bacteria daily normalized fat gain, glucose homeostasis and adipose tissue metabolism. It also helped restore the intestinal barrier function and improved the mucus layer of the intestines. The researchers found that these effects were only obtained with live bacteria.
Prebiotics Are the Key to Healthy Populations of A. muciniphila
If the mice ate a high fat diet, the types of bacteria in the gut changed dramatically and the numbers of A. muciniphila plummeted. While supplementation with A. muciniphila was extremely helpful for the murine waistlines, it did not help reverse the changes in the composition of the intestinal flora. What did help was the prebiotic, oligofructose, which is a nondigestable sugar used to promote bacterial growth. Oligofructose supplementation during a high fat diet restored the intestinal flora and provided the same benefits that were seen with A. muciniphila supplementation.
Have Your Cake and Be Thin Too?
Most things that seem too good to be true usually are. Researchers caution that you probably won’t be to eat everything you want and use probiotic or prebiotic supplementation to avoid the consequences. This study provides mainly insight into the relationship between our bodies and the intestinal flora that it houses. Still, it will be exciting to see what develops both in the scientific world and in the probiotic supplementation world as a result of this study. Furthermore, the prebiotic oligofructose (or FOS) is already on the market, which will allow you to give the prebiotic a try.
If you would like to learn a little more about the potential of probiotics to increase weight loss in humans, visit this post.
- Sander Grégoire. “Doorbraak tegen obesitas? Enkele bacterie speelt grote rol bij muizen.” May 14, 2013 Volkskrant.nl
- Everard, A., Belzer, C., Geurts, L., Ouwerkerk, J. P., Druart, C., Bindels, L. B., et al. (2013). Cross-talk between Akkermansia muciniphila and intestinal epithelium controls diet-induced obesity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. doi:10.1073/pnas.1219451110