Akkermansia, Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome: An Update

For you fans of Akkermansia who’ve been waiting with baited breath for the next research paper on it, you’re in luck today!

Of course, because we’re talking the human biome, nothing is ever simple. Today’s research is a great example of just how immensely complex this all is.  Prior research has shown a relationship between Akkermansia and obesity.  For example, I talked about this last November in describing research using data from the American Gut Project which showed that decreased levels of Akkermansia are associated with increased risk for obesity.  The previous year I wrote about how both live Akkermansia supplementation and heat-inactivated Akkermansia, given in supplement form, reduced the risk of obesity and insulin resistance in a small cohort of 32 people.

In today’s research, Chinese researchers wanted to explore the relationship between Akkermansia levels and the 5 main components of metabolic syndrome (MetS):   hypertension, hyperglycemia, hypertriglyceridemia (high triglycerides), low levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) and obesity.  A diagnosis of MetS requires a person to have at least 3 of these risk components.[i]

Akkermansia, as you may remember, is a mucin-degrading bacteria (i.e. it lives in and on the mucus lining the gut) which is perhaps why this  one study I wrote about in the past showed that high levels are associated with inflammatory bowel disease.  But then in other research, like today’s paper, finds that a “…depletion of Akkermansia along with enrichment of other mucolytic bacteria…has been reported in both human and animal models of inflammatory bowel disease.”  Confusing, right?

Now this might explain why differing studies find differing results: as these scientists state, “…its effect on host physiology depends on complex interactions with other intestinal microorganism.”  And that right there is always the problem:  looking at one species in isolation never makes a whole lot of sense when it comes to the human biome.

In this case, the scientists wanted to learn more about what bacteria affect Akkermansia’s ability to improve MetS as well as to figure out what is the threshold level of required to reduce the risk of MetS.  They used a cross-sectional study of 6896 subjects and 97.7% of these subjects had detectible levels of Akkermansia.  20.4% of these individuals had MetS.  Their findings:  there is a significant association between Akkermansia and central obesity/waist circumference, hypertriglyceridemia, low levels of HDL and hypertension. There was a weaker association with hyperglycemia. Their findings, they point out, is in line with those of the American Gut Project, and the “…concordance of these results indicates that the protective effect of Akkermansia against obesity is independent of geography, ethnicity, sex, age, and dietary habits in Western and Eastern countries and may be generalizable to a large population.”

But again, since nothing in the gut is ever simple:  they also found that “Ruminococcaceae and Lachnospiraceae were the 2 main families influencing Akkermansia abundance and the Akkermansia –MetS association.”  That is, levels of other bacteria affected Akkermansia’s ability to improve the symptoms of MetS.  And more than that, the level of the bacteria also mattered:  Akkermansia was nonsignificant at low levels, which is in line with the findings of previous research which showed that in terms of supplementation, at least a billion units per day were necessary for efficacy.  In this study, they found that Akkermansia must be at levels at the very least of .2% of the microbiome to have any effect on MetS risks.  And its protective effects increased as the level of it goes up.

The paper points out that there have been very few human clinical trials with Akkermansia, but the few that have been done in overweight individuals showed that supplementation is tolerated, and another showed that even massive amounts of it in the gut caused no adverse effects.  And the researchers conclude that “…These findings suggest that probiotic intervention with Akkermansia can prevent or alleviate MetS and related disorders such as heart disease or T2DM.”

Unfortunately, it is still not available to the general public (at least that I can find).  And while Bofutsushosan, that Japanese herbal supplement I wrote about in April, 2020 which has been shown to significantly increase levels, is out there for sale, I don’t see any sources of it that make me comfortable.  I guess this is all still a waiting game….

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[i] Zhou Q, Pang G, Zhang Z, Yuan H, Chen C, Zhang N, Yang Z, Sun L. Association Between Gut Akkermansia and Metabolic Syndrome is Dose-Dependent and Affected by Microbial Interactions: A Cross-Sectional Study. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2021;14:2177-2188
https://doi.org/10.2147/DMSO.S311388

One Comment on “Akkermansia, Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome: An Update

  1. Pingback: A New Probiotic Candidate in the Fight Against Obesity – THE BIOME BUZZ

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