September 30, 2023 12 min read
In our world, i.e., the world of humans and our activities, for someone to take time to write about you and how good you are at what you do, firstly you have to be noticed as standing out from the crowd, have an undisputed track record, or just be very lucky. This may be due to the fact there are so many of us, billions, it is like a lottery.
Yet, when we do hear such stories, some are so endearing they can even bring a tear to the eye, with tales of selfless expression in the strive to make a better world for others.
Well, this article is being written about a very special species, not human, but where they are from, there is also billions of inhabitants, and they strive to be the best at what they do.
They work tirelessly for the human race, even though sometimes we don’t give them the right tools they need, they still strive. It could well be suggested that they may have been bouncing around helping our species to stay on the planet for millennia.
So, as you read just what outstanding work they carry out, and how your life is made so much more comfortable because of the work they do, hopefully you will feel the just appreciation that is so long overdue. Please also remember, this must be extra special good work, as it has been put under the microscope where they have had to perform consistently, no room for mistake.
So, without further ado, I give you Akkermansia muciniphila,
Akkermansiaor Akkermansia muciniphilato be precise is a bacterial species that thrives in the mucosal layer of your colon. As its name suggests it loves a particular type of sugary protein called mucin and your gut is lined with the stuff. Result!
The great thing about A. muciniphila is it isn’t wholly reliant on your diet to thrive, it’s actually pretty self-sufficient. That’s because rather than fermenting the prebiotic fibre you guzzle, it prefers to snack on the mucus lining your gut which gives it a slight ecological advantage, too. This gel-like coating provides Akkermansiawith the energy it needs to thrive and survive as well as strengthens the integrity of your intestinal barrier.
Akkermansiais the only member of the Verrucomicrobia phylum in the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract and because of its abundance in lean people, has gained the nickname of being a “skinny bug”.
Your relationship with Akkermansiais symbiotic; it’s good for both of you. By breaking down the mucins in your gut lining, A. muciniphilatransforms them into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These postbiotic molecules have numerous health benefits. But the consistent chomping also encourages the cells in your gut to produce more mucins which strengthens the gut lining, creating a robust barrier, all the while helping to modulate your immune system.
But that’s not all. Akkermansiais known to have a beneficial effect on metabolic diseases including obesity and type 2 diabetes. More recent research has also shown that there could be a link between this nifty microbe and neurological disorders, like autism spectrum condition (ASC) and Alzheimer’s Disease[ii].
If you’re hoping to search the internet to find a miracle capsule containing Akkermansia,let us save you the trouble by letting you know you’ll be hard-pressed to find one. For now, at least.
Akkermansia muciniphilathrives in anaerobic environments or those with little or no oxygen. That’s why you’ll find fewer Akkermansiaproducts on the market compared to, for example, Bifidobacteriaor Lactobacillus.However, that doesn’t mean you can’t boost your Akkermansialevels with your diet and a little help from alternative supplements.
One way we can support Akkermansia,and other beneficial bacteria species in our gut, is by following the gut farmer diet. Put simply, the gut farmer diet is “seeding and feeding your gut through, diet, prebiotics, and probiotics.”[iii]
Effectively we can split the gut farmer diet into three; prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics. Then, we can analyse how each of these elements can come together to help us promote the optimal environment for A.muciniphilato thrive.
Akkermansiais supported in the gut by key prebiotics, like polyphenols. Prebiotics are the foods that help to nourish our gut microbiota. In relation to the gut farmer diet, prebiotics, alongside probiotics, can be thought of as the seeds, being planted into the soil, or in this case the colon. Here, the nurturing and growth happens, until eventually rather than the shoots of a plant, beneficial metabolites are yielded, also known as postbiotics.
Dietary polyphenols have potent antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits which can have powerful effects on the gut microbiome composition. Their antioxidant properties can protect oxygen-hating gut microbes like A. muciniphila which are vulnerable to attacks from free oxygen radicals. So, polyphenols may manipulate the microbiota in a way that means they scavenge these free radicals protecting the likes of Akkermansiafrom harm[iv].
In a study by Anhê et al (2015) the effect of cranberry extract on high fat/high sucrose fed mice was assessed to see if the antidiabetic effects of these polyphenols were related to changes in the gut microbiota. Interestingly, the results of the study revealed that cranberry extract was associated with a reduction in visceral obesity, weight gain and an improvement in insulin sensitivity. But all of these beneficial effects coincided with a proportional increase in the abundance of Akkermansia[v].
Did you know you can find cranberry extract in our Simple Reds - Organic Red Polyphenols Fruit Powder - With Apple Peel?
Further research shows that Akkermansiaabundance is also increased with the consumption of grape polyphenols. The increased presence of A.muciniphilaalso occurred with a decreased Firmicutesto Bacteroidetesratio, a factor reported in many metabolic diseases, including obesity. Thus, the increase in Akkermansia was linked to a strengthened gut barrier and better metabolic outcomes.
Another potent prebiotic for the Akkermansiacalling your gut a home, is berberine. Berberine is a plant alkaloid that’s known to have benefits for metabolic health by lowering lipid levels, improving glucose control and exerting anti-obesity effects.
A study published in 2021 revealed that berberine could indirectly stimulate the growth of Akkermansiaby stimulating the secretion of mucin in the gut[vi]. An earlier study by Zhu et al. (2018) revealed that berberine can modulate the composition of the gut microbiota, including increasing the abundance of Akkermansiain the gut. This increase could influence the protective benefits of berberine against atherosclerosis[vii], a cause of heart disease, the world’s biggest killer[viii]
Finally, another feat of genius, and this time literally growing on trees, is a gift awaiting our internal ecosystem tenant Akkermansia, the mighty apple[ix], in particular the peel.
A study by Masumoto et al. (2016) found that a specific class of antioxidant flavonoids found in apples, non-absorbable procyanidins, could prevent obesity in mice. The ability to do this was associated with a reduction in Firmicutesto Bacteroidetesratio, and an increase in Akkermansia[x].
In the peel of nature’s orchard baubles is the prebiotic pectin, and Akkermansialove it. This powerhouse can alter the Bacteroidetesto Firmicutesratio in both the lung and gut microbiota.In turn, this increases SCFA levels in the faeces and can combat the development of inflammation, by suppressing dendritic cell function[xi].
Want to take advantage of the power of the peel? Then you need look no further than Layer Origin’s Organic Apple Peel Powder – all the apple goodness you need in one pot.
Of course, we couldn’t finish this section without mentioning human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). As we know, HMOs are an abundant component of human milk and are structurally similar to the oligosaccharides that make up mucin, the go-to nectar of Akkermansia.
A study by Luna et al. (2022) studies the potential for Akkermansiato breakdown HMOs. The study found that Akkermansiastrains can use a variety of different HMOs for growth but in a strain-dependent way. So, the prebiotic effects of HMOs will depend on which strain of Akkermansiais residing in your colon.
Another interesting finding from this study was that when grown on HMOs, Akkermansia actually frees some of the sugars and produces bi-products during fermentation that can feed other members of your gut microbiota[xii].
A 2022 study isolated a new strain of A. muciniphilafrom mouse faeces and revealed that this strain contains the necessary genes needed to utilise HMOs. Overall, the study revealed that this particular strain could utilise 2’-fucosyllactose faster than another strain.
Although you may be hard pressed to find a huge range of Akkermansiasupplements in your local health store, there is this one from Pendulum®. Packing a whopping 100 million AFU per capsule this Akkermansiasupplement could help support your Akkermansiacolonies but other probiotics may also have a beneficial impact on its growth and activity[xiii].
An animal study found that oral administration of a combination of Lactobacillus rhamnosusLMG S-28148 and Bifidobacterium animalissubsp. lactisLMG P-28149 for 14 weeks increased the abundance of A.muciniphilain the faeces of high fat fed DIO mice by around 100 fold[xiv].
The increase in Akkermansiawas also inversely correlated with body weight gain – as confirmed by other studies. It was concluded that the positive effect on Akkermansiawas likely to be because of B. lactis rather than L. rhamnosus as similar results were seen in a later study, but the benefits were concluded to be a result of the presence of the Bifidobacteriastrain.
Although the mechanism behind how B.animalisstimulates the growth of Akkermansiais unknown, it has been hypothesised that it may be because of an increased production of butyrate. Butyrate is a potent SCFA which is known to increase the production of mucus in the gut…it’s also a great example of a postbiotic!
Tip:Consuming fermented foods or probiotic supplements help to support the health of your microbiome.
Postbiotics are the magical metabolites produced by your gut microbes, like:
There are some particular postbiotics associated with promoting the abundance of A. muciniphila.SCFAs have a particularly good relationship with the Akkermansiain your gut. Not only do these potent microbes produce them, but they also utilise them to support their growth.
Some research suggests that some SCFAs may promote the growth of Akkermansia because of their ability to promote mucin production[xv]. A study by Willemsen et al. (2003) demonstrated that SCFAs stimulated the production of MUC-2, the main building block of intestinal mucus, helping to support the integrity of the gut barrier, and of course feeding Akkermansia.
Note:Akkermansiaare also major SCFA producers, producing acetate and propionate when they break down the mucins in your gut lining, contributing to your overall health. These SCFAs can then be used by other bacteria to help nourish them[xvi].
Urolithin A, (UA), is another postbiotic, and another powerhouse. There is a lot of exciting research coming out about UA, firstly it incorporates so well with our internal ecosystem, it has the power to not only change it, but also change its alpha diversity, in short, the way it adapts and operates.
It has also been seen to improve the vascular endothelium function (VEF) which is responsible for regulation of the pathways of cells and substances from blood to the tissues. This is throughout the whole circulatory system. Damage in this area can lead to some of the most chronic human diseases[xvii][xviii]. So this potent postbiotic has a protective benefit but some research also shows that urolithins could induce the growth of Akkermansia[xix].
Equally, studies have highlighted the association between the formation of urolithin A production in the gut and a high abundance of A. muciniphilain stool samples after consumption of pomegranate extract[xx]. However, more research is needed to determine the association between urolithin A production and the gut microbiome[xxi], but Akkermansiaappears to have an important role.
With its potent list of benefits still growing, it’s no wonder that Akkermansiais being hailed as a next-generation probiotic. Labelled the “skinny bug” because it’s often present in high numbers in the guts of lean people, this tiny organism also has an ecological advantage because it isn’t solely reliant on you to feed it. It cleverly munches on the mucins lining your colon, minding its own business, and greatly benefitting your health, all without you really knowing about it.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t do things to help support it and eat things that will help to keep the gut environment in tip-top condition to enable it to thrive. The gut farmer diet is the perfect way to promote the health of your gut microbiota. Combining prebiotics with probiotics ensures a healthy release of postbiotics, that will work wonders for you, your gut bacteria and your overall health.
Written by: Leanne Edermaniger, M.Sc. Leanne is a professional science writer who specializes in human health and enjoys writing about all things related to the gut microbiome.
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[iii] Infant Microbiome in Sickness and Health - Part 1 of 3 [Internet]. YouTube. Layer Origin Nutrition; 2023 [cited 2023 Sept 6]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3MkYRmzfyk
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[viii] The top 10 causes of death [Internet]. World Health Organization; 2020 [cited 2023 Sept 29]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death
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[xi] Blanco-Pérez F, Steigerwald H, Schülke S, Vieths S, Toda M, Scheurer S. The Dietary Fiber Pectin: Health Benefits and Potential for the Treatment of Allergies by Modulation of Gut Microbiota. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2021 Sep 10;21(10):43. doi: 10.1007/s11882-021-01020-z. PMID: 34505973; PMCID: PMC8433104.
[xii] Luna E, Parkar SG, Kirmiz N, Hartel S, Hearn E, Hossine M, Kurdian A, Mendoza C, Orr K, Padilla L, Ramirez K, Salcedo P, Serrano E, Choudhury B, Paulchakrabarti M, Parker CT, Huynh S, Cooper K, Flores GE. Utilization Efficiency of Human Milk Oligosaccharides by Human-Associated Akkermansia Is Strain Dependent. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2022 Jan 11;88(1):e0148721. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01487-21. Epub 2021 Oct 20. PMID: 34669436; PMCID: PMC8752153.
[xiii] Gao W, Xiao M, Gu Z, Fu X, Ren X, Yu Y, Liu Z, Zhu C, Kong Q, Mou H. Genome analysis and 2'-fucosyllactose utilization characteristics of a new Akkermansia muciniphila strain isolated from mice feces. Mol Genet Genomics. 2022 Nov;297(6):1515-1528. doi: 10.1007/s00438-022-01937-8. Epub 2022 Aug 10. PMID: 35948738.
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[xvi] Rodrigues VF, Elias-Oliveira J, Pereira ÍS, Pereira JA, Barbosa SC, Machado MSG, Carlos D. Akkermansia muciniphila and Gut Immune System: A Good Friendship That Attenuates Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes. Front Immunol. 2022 Jul 7;13:934695. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.934695. PMID: 35874661; PMCID: PMC9300896.
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[xix] Al Khalaf AK, Abdulrahman AO, Kaleem M, Nur SM, Asseri AH, Choudhry H, Khan MI. Comparative Analysis of the Impact of Urolithins on the Composition of the Gut Microbiota in Normal-Diet Fed Rats. Nutrients. 2021 Oct 29;13(11):3885. doi: 10.3390/nu13113885. PMID: 34836145; PMCID: PMC8618180.
[xx] Henning SM, Summanen PH, Lee RP, Yang J, Finegold SM, Heber D, Li Z. Pomegranate ellagitannins stimulate the growth of Akkermansia muciniphila in vivo. Anaerobe. 2017 Feb;43:56-60. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2016.12.003. Epub 2016 Dec 7. PMID: 27940244.
[xxi] Toney AM, Fox D, Chaidez V, Ramer-Tait AE, Chung S. Immunomodulatory role of Urolithin A on metabolic diseases. Biomedicines. 2021;9(2):192. doi:10.3390/biomedicines9020192
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