Even more power to the gut

With the increasing evidence regarding the importance of the gut microbiome, two more studies were released recently showing the importance of having healthy gut bacteria. Both published in “Nature Medicine”, the first from Harvard University, looked at the relationship between specific gut bacteria and allergies.

It is estimated that around 10% of the population are now experiencing some degree of food allergies. It is also estimated that human beings are only 10% human and 90% bacteria, most of which reside in the gut. There are trillions of microorganisms including thousands of species of bacteria living within the gastrointestinal tract. It is well known that there are strong interactions between gut bacteria and the immune system which can trigger a range of diseases from cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease and now even allergies.

It appears the risk for food allergies is higher in people who come from smaller families, those who were not breastfed, those who were born by caesarean section and young children that had significant antibiotic use throughout their early years.

Image source: msra.org.au

The Harvard researchers collected faecal samples from babies every few months and compared the gut bacteria of 56 infants with food allergies compared with 98 age-matched individuals who did not have food allergies. They found different bacteria living in the allergic children compared with those who were nonallergic.

They then transplanted the gut bacteria from the children into mice that were sensitive to eggs. The mice who received gut bacteria from children without food allergies were less likely to have an allergic reaction compared with those who received the gut bacteria from the children with food allergies. It was found that certain Clostridial species and also Bacteroides species protected the mice from food allergies.

The second study looked at a particular bacteria known as Akkermansia Muciniphila. This particular bacteria has been previously linked to people with healthy metabolism, reduced weight and low blood sugar levels. This study from Belgium also published in Nature Medicine, initially gave 20 healthy volunteers a probiotic of Akkermansia Muciniphila for a 3 month period and found a better insulin response, lower cholesterols and slight weight loss and this was despite no change in diet and exercise.

The second component of the study looked at 32 overweight/obese individuals and gave them either placebo or 10 billion Akkermansia Muciniphila per capsule. Those in the active treatment group had much lower inflammatory markers, lower cholesterol and just under 2 ½ kg weight loss over the 3 month period. Large studies will be performed in the near future.

It is interesting that there is a strong possibility in the near future of all of these healthy bacteria species being put into a probiotic capsule which may help food allergies, diabetes, cholesterol levels and weight loss. There are a variety of different treatments for all of these conditions already available on the market but to be able to use healthy bacteria as another form of effective therapy is a very exciting prospect.