In recent years we've witnessed real momentum gather in the scientific community regarding the relationship between our gut microbiota and metabolic health. Now new research may unlock a deeper understanding of exactly what bacterial species can help contribute to better metabolic health and healthier fat distribution in people who are overweight.

French researchers, from Institut E3M, Paris, have published a study which reveals that Akkermansia muciniphila is associated with healthier glucose metabolism, blood fats, and healthier body fat distribution. These findings, presented in the journal Gut, also back up previous studies that have found A. muciniphila helped lower glucose levels and aid weight loss in mice.

In healthy people A. muciniphila only constitutes approximately 3-5% of the gut microbiota and but it is also thought to be responsible for encouraging the growth of other beneficial bacteria through the production of fermentation products.

obese man

"A. muciniphila produces a variety of fermentation products. These may serve as energy sources for other bacteria and the host. It is possible that through this cross-feeding, A. muciniphila may contribute to the expansion of other beneficial species, while it may itself have a direct effect on host metabolism, consistent with rodent studies," commented the French researchers.

Study details

In this recent trial, led by Professor Karine Clement, a total of 49 obese or overweight  adults participated in a 12 week trial which involved 6 weeks on a low calorie diet with extra protein and fibre, followed by six weeks of a stabilisation diet. Researchers found that those with higher levels of A. muciniphila had lower fasting blood glucose and insulin levels, a smaller waist to hip ratio, and smaller fat cell volume beneath their skin compared to those with lower levels of the bacteria.

Researchers also found that those with higher A. muciniphila levels had greater bacteria diversity in their gut to start with, as well as having healthier metabolic profiles.

After 6 weeks, at completion of the low calorie diet stage, participants with higher A. muciniphila showed a stronger improvement in their metabolic profile and body fat distribution than those with lower levels, Clement and her team revealed.

The research team believed that the success of the A. muciniphila bacteria is due to its ability to produce a food source to other beneficial bacteria in the gut. In particular, the bacteria is noted for producing a variety of fermentation products including short chain fatty acids. This encourages the growth of other bacterial species that may also benefit the host.

"These substrates may serve as energy sources for other bacteria and the host. It is possible that through this cross-feeding A. muciniphila may contribute to the expansion of other beneficial species, while it may itself have a direct effect on host metabolism, consistent with rodent studies."
They concluded that further research should be undertaken to discover if the species has potential as a probiotic and whether it might be used to indicate the success of other dietary interventions.

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Reference: Carlota Dao, M. et al. Akkermansia muciniphila and improved metabolic health during a dietary intervention in obesity: relationship with gut microbiome richness and ecology. Gut. Published online ahead of print.


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