Obesity-Fighting Bacteria in the Intestines

bacteria_greenIn the intestinal system of all humans is bacteria called Akkermansia muciniphila. It is present in the intestinal mucus layer that protects against intruders.  With both obesity and type 2 diabetes, we see a disruption of the natural barrier in the intestines, and changes in the composition of the intestinal bacteria. Recently, research has shown that Akkermansia has a favorable impact on these harmful effects associated with obesity.

A decade ago, it was discovered that Akkermansia muciniphila was present in large numbers in both rodents and humans that were not overweight. Those with obesity and/or inflamation were found to have Akkermansia muciniphila as well, but in smaller quantities. Spurred by this discovery, researchers at Université Louvain in Brussels and Wageningen University set out to determine the role of this bacteria.

From their assessments, they concluded that the bacteria are less frequent in mice with induced obesity and with type 2 diabetes. But they were able to recover the Akkermansia population in mice by administering rather indigestible fibers such as oligofructose, (known for its advantageous effect on intestinal biota). The researchers concluded that the  presence of the bacteria strengthens the intestinal barrier and was associated with less insulin resistance, fat storage and inflammation reactions in fatty tissues.

The researchers also conducted an experiment in which they administered Akkermansia bacteria to mice on various diets. With a normal diet, no effect was observed.  However, in mice that became overweight as a result of a high-fat diet, the Akkermansia bacteria caused a beneficial reduction in fat development and associated metabolic defects, without food intake changing. After the administration, the levels of a substance called endocannabinoid increased. This substance ensures that blood glucose remains at the correct level. Additionally, the researchers found that the intestinal barrier function was strengthened.

While human studies have not yet been conducted, the findings suggest that a treatment with Akkermansia bacteria could potentially reduce inflammation and help mitigate some negative effects obesity. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Related Reading: Diabetes May Start in the Intestines

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