Akkermansia Gut Bacteria: A Key Factor in Digestive Health
While organisms like Salmonella typhi and Listeria monocytogenes can cause severe gastrointestinal illness, Akkermansia gut bacteria have been found to benefit digestive health. Digestion is a complex process that begins in the mouth, where the enzyme ptyalin in saliva initiates the breakdown of starch into sugars.
As food travels through the oesophagus to the stomach and small and large intestines, a ripple of muscular contractions known as peristalsis propels it along the way. At various stages, pH adjustments and specific enzymes contribute to breaking down fats, proteins and carbohydrates, forming smaller soluble molecules which pass through the walls of the large intestine and into the bloodstream. Undigested materials are excreted as faeces.
However, microorganisms are every bit as essential for the smooth operation of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) as saliva, gastric acid, bile and enzymes. A healthy human gut is home to trillions of microbes, including bacteria, yeasts and viruses. The precise composition varies between individuals, but many species are common to all. One such species is Akkermansia muciniphila.
A novel species of Akkermansia gut bacteria
The gut’s surface is coated with a protective layer of glycoproteins called mucins. The layer not only shields the underlying tissue from digestive secretions but also regulates the movement of water, ions and the compounds essential for the body’s immune response. The clue to one crucial role of the bacterium mentioned above lies in its name.
First isolated and identified in 2004, A.muciniphila has been the subject of intensive research that continues to this day. Its activities include thickening the protective mucin layer, providing several valuable health benefits. A strong gut lining protects against pathogens and reduces the risk of GIT dysfunction while creating an environment conducive to the thriving of beneficial species. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and appears to play a role in preventing inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
However, there is a good reason for the diversity of intestinal flora. Many other species have been shown to have health benefits, so these must also be present in adequate numbers. A. muciniphila obtains its nutrition from specific mucins, producing short-chain fatty acids as a by-product of its metabolism. These, in turn, provide nutrients that help promote the growth of other essential gut flora.
Akkermansia gut bacteria and human metabolism
The benefits of a healthy gut are not limited to local effects. While the mechanism is not yet fully understood, several independent studies indicate a relationship between the levels of A. muciniphila in lean and overweight subjects. They were found to be consistently lower in the latter group. Given the confirmed connection between obesity and type 2 diabetes, a direct or indirect role in the regulation of blood glucose levels is also implied.
The various potential health benefits displayed by this microbe have led to the development of a probiotic which, in 2021, became the first next-generation bacterium to gain approval from the European Food Safety Authority as a food supplement.
The discovery and research of Akkermansia gut bacteria that made this product possible were performed by two professors who subsequently founded the Akkermansia Company. If you have concerns about weight management, glucose control or gut health, please don’t hesitate to contact us.