Staying Young, Healthy and Chock Full of Akkermansia

You know how whenever you learn a new word, for example, suddenly it appears everywhere?  I have been having that experience of late with all kinds of tie-ins to recent posts.  Coincidences or…is it just that the Biome Buzz is so trending that I’m on top of stories before they happen?!

Akkermansia.  Suddenly it is HOT.  I started talking about it in October, if you remember, and on the 18th, even wrote a post about ways to boost levels, as it’s not yet available for purchase.   Akkermansia popped up again in my post of November 7th,  which was about  a recent summit on probiotics, at which a researchers discussed adding polyphenols to the diet (like cranberry extract…which is the second thing to be popping up everywhere) to boost levels of Akkermansia, which is not only associated with a reduced risk of inflammatory diseases like Alzheimer’s, obesity, autism and a host of others.

On November 15th, an article appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine, describing the anti-aging effects of Akkermansia.[i]  I’ve talked before about how we lose microbiome diversity as we age, which leads to many age-related issues like poor digestion, lowered immunity, and insulin resistance.  By feeding the test animals the short-chain fatty acid, butyrate, they were able to restore levels of Akkermansia while also improving insulin sensitivity (to levels seen in younger animals).  Their results suggest “…that the insulin resistance and other pathologies associated with aging and even frailty can be ameliorated by targeting the cascade of events that flow from the depletion of Akkermansia muciniphila…”[ii]

But wait, there’s more!  So now that I once again have Akkermansia on my mind, I spot a little study, also published last week, on cranberry extract![iii] These researchers wanted to ascertain if the polyphenols found in the concentrate ameliorate the negative effects of a poor quality, animal-product-based (inflammatory) diet.  While there were only 11 individuals in the study, it was a double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover study (so the gold standard of clinical trials).  The control diet contained meat, dairy and simple sugar while the experimental diet was the same plus 30 grams of whole cranberry powder.  The subjects were fed one or the other diet for two 5-day periods of time (so a total of 10 days), then taken off the diet, and then the groups were swapped.   While taking the cranberry extract, the subjects’ microbiomes showed fewer negative microbial changes.

“It appeared that adding cranberries to the control diet reduced the rise in secondary gut bile acids that have been associated with colon and GI cancer. Cranberries also lessened the drop in beneficial SCFA [short chain fatty acids] thought to help maintain healthy GI cells. Overall, the treatment diet suggested that cranberry constituents may help support a healthy gut microbiome.”

Red berries on a dark background. cranberries in a bowl.

(As I just mentioned above, short-chain fatty acid (like butyrate) raise the levels of Akkermansia.)

Out of curiosity, I just did a quick search to see if there is any commercially sold form of butyrate.  For whatever reason, it had never occurred to me to check that until now!  Well, guess what! – yes, there is.  This is not something I have ever tried on either myself or any of my nutrition clients.  Therefore, it’s time to experiment on Judy!  I’m buying it today.  Anyone want to volunteer to be a guinea pig with me?!

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[i] Bodogai, M, et. al. Commensal bacteria contribute to insulin resistance in aging by activating innate B1a cells. Science Translational Medicine. 2018;10(467).   DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aat4271

[ii] https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/space/go-for-launch/la-sci-sn-gut-bacteria-aging-20181115-story.html

[iii] https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-11/pc-fts111218.php

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