In the past 15 years, there has been a great deal of attention on the gut microbiome.
In fact, since 2013 there have been over 19,000 published papers on this topic. If you search PubMed you can see that numerous studies have shown associations of the microbiome with disorders like obesity, diabetes mellitus, autoimmune disorders, cancers, liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and even neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Recent genetic tools like DNA sequencing have helped researchers further characterize the composition of microbes in the gut and successfully delineated their specific roles.
In 2004 researchers first isolated a gram-negative anaerobe called Akkermansia mucinophila in the Netherlands. They now know a great deal more about this gut bacteria and what they have learned has scientists excited.
Akkermansia only constitutes about 1-4% of the microbiota but its benefits exceed its concentration.
While the percentage may not seem significant enough to warrant attention scientists now know this particular species plays a very important role in health.
Akkermansia mucinophila has the greatest concentration in our cecum, the portion of the GI tract between the small and large intestines. It has a role in the degradation of mucin, a glycoprotein in the mucus lining the gut. We know that many gut microbes produce important compounds like folate, indoles, secondary bile acids, neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA, and short-chain fatty acids. It appears that Akkermansia plays a role in the production of short-chain fatty acids, propionate, and acetate. Propionate stimulates immune cells to produce antimicrobial compounds which act as immune regulators to reduce inflammatory conditions and cancer cell proliferation. Both propionate and acetate help other bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, produce more butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that contributes to healthy gut barrier formation and also serves as an energy source for colonic cells. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) can also stimulate cells in the gut that secrete intestinal peptides involved in glucose metabolism and control of food intake.
Understanding the roles of Akkermansia has helped scientists explain the short and long-term benefits of higher concentrations of this microbe.
The more Akkermansia mucinophila you have the lower the risk of metabolic dysfunction. In fact, Akkermansia levels are inversely related to body weight, inflammation, cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance.
Akkermansia mucinophila has also been shown to improve and restore the gut barrier.
The higher the concentration of Akkermansia the lower intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”) and the medical conditions associated with it. Studies have shown that individuals with inflammatory bowel conditions like Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative colitis have lower concentrations of Akkermansia and emerging evidence has shown it is a potential probiotic for ameliorating colitis in animal studies and even early human studies.
There was a remarkable study that looked at the success of immune therapy with respect to Akkermansia’s presence. Researchers showed in immune therapy treatment of cancer individuals with more Akkermansia mucinophila in their gut had better outcomes. They then went on to show that sterilized mice who were poor responders to treatment became responders when treated with Akkermansia. You can understand how these results have gotten the attention of many in the field.
Certainly hearing about the benefits of Akkermansia mucinophila have you interested in bumping up your own personal levels. While there is a probiotic developed by the company Pendulum (Call our office or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase from our store), this species is pricey and should be reserved for those with metabolic disorders such as elevated insulin, blood glucose, insulin resistance, autoimmune disease, or inflammatory bowel disorders.
The good news is you can boost your own Akkermansia by making a few changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Akkermansia mucinophila loves prebiotic fibers like inulin, Jerusalem artichoke, and chicory root.
Some good prebiotic fibers to include in your diet:
- Chicory Root
- Dandelion greens
- Flax seeds
- Garlic and Leeks
Akkermansia mucinophilia loves polyphenols like EGCG in green tea, catechins, and tannins. You can get these by consuming berries, nuts like walnuts and pecans, pomegranate, and green tea. There are even recently published studies that suggest we depend on microbes like Akkermansia to help us absorb these powerful polyphenols and phytonutrients.
Akkermansia levels increase with calorie restriction and intermittent fasting. Adopting a window of 12-14 hours has been shown to boost levels of this important microbe.