August 10, 2022 9 min read
Can you imagine hearing ‘the world is your oyster, but make sure you have your Bifidobacteria animalis in good order first’? Does it have a more intriguing ring to it? Well, it should have, because, without the presence of Bifidobacteria animalis in your gut microbiome and in the right abundance, your good health will be pretty transitory. If this statement evokes the question, why? Then read on, as this article will delve deep into this probiotic bacteria known as ‘one of the good guys’ according to the PREDICT 1 study.
Found in the large intestine, Bifidobacteria animalis is gram-positive (having a thick cell wall), anaerobic (can exist and survive without oxygen) and rod-shaped. This bacterium is associated with good health when found in high numbers in the right environment[i].
The presence of Bifidobacteria was first recorded in 1899 by Tissier. It was found in the faeces of milk-feeding infants. Due to this and ongoing research since, Bifidobacteria has been introduced into foods as an active ingredient[ii], and the B. animalis strain is no exception.
The PREDICT 1 study identified the 15 good and 15 bad gut microbes in the human gut microbiome. Bifidobacteria animalis was found to be one of the 15 good examples because research has shown it has health-promoting qualities. They are one of the first microbes to colonise the gut at birth and can adapt to ecological niches. This gives it the advantage to evade the host’s immune system, set up camp and colonize but for all the right reasons.
According to the PREDICT programme’s research, B. animalis is associated with lower levels of insulin in the blood and greater insulin sensitivity. That’s not all, this impressive microbe has been shown to have numerous health benefits for humans. It’s a bit like a superhero in the world of the gut microbiome, as you’ll soon discover.
B. animalis is an example of a probiotic bacteria. That is if it is consumed in large enough quantities in its live state, it can have health benefits for its host[iii]. One of B. animalis main functions is digesting dietary fibre, this process creates a gel-like product that softens the stools and bulks them out. In turn, this slows the movement of food through the digestive tract, enabling more time for the absorption of nutrients[iv].
The Bifidobacterium genus is renowned for producing important vitamins and minerals. An important example is its ability to produce B vitamins, like B1, B3, B5, B7 and B9, as well as vitamin K,an important regulator of blood clotting and promoting bone health[v].
Bifidobacteria,including the animalis strain, also synthesiseshort chain fatty acids (SCFAs) from dietary fibre. These SCFAs include acetate which helps to keep other bacterial species nourished, particularly butyrate producers. The process is called cross-feeding, and by helping to feed butyrate-producers, Bifidobacteria contribute to preventing gut inflammation and strengthening the gut lining.
B. animalis populates the human gut and is likely to be one of its first inhabitants because of its prevalence in human breast milk[vi]. Therefore, the strain is likely to be an important promoter of healthy microbiota development. As a result, there are now commercially available strains that are added to foods, such as yoghurt, and supplements because of their health benefits. Let’s take a deeper look into the valuable properties some of these strains may have.
There’s a bit of a story behind this strain, also known as B. animalis BB-12subsp. lactis. BB-12, as it’s often known, first originated from the Danish bioscience company Chr. Hansen’s collection of dairy cultures in 1983 and was specially selected to produce probiotic dairy products.
It was first thought to be a member of the Bifidobacterium bifidum species, but it was reclassified as a new Bifidobacterium animalis species, and then later as a member of the Bifidobacterium lactis species. However, it was later discovered that B. lactisdidn’t meet the criteria needed to be classed as a species and so, it was included in B. animalis as a subspecies. That’s why it is now known as B. animalis BB-12 subsp. lactis or BB-12 for short, and despite the name change, the strain remains as it did when it was isolated in 1983[vii].
In a 2017 study, B. animalis BB-12 subsp. lactis was analysed for its effects on lipids and lipoproteins as well as the excretion of SCFAs in the faeces of healthy adults. The study involved 11 men and 19 women aged between 18 and 40 years.
The participants were randomly assigned to one of four treatments:
The treatment lasted for 4 weeks followed by a two-week washout period. Interestingly, the results found no improvement in lipids, lipoproteins or faecal total SCFAs, but the consumption of the yogurt smoothie (with BB-12 or without BB-12) increased the faecal acetate excretion.
A new study in China published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that BB-12 has potential anti-obesity effects that may occur because of 2 distinct pathways.
The study found that by adding B. animalis BB-12 subsp. lactis to a high-fat diet, prevented the transition to an obese gut microbiome from a healthy one. In other words, this remarkable strain appears to have a stabilising effect on the gut microbiome. That’s not all. The study also revealed that BB-12 enriches the beneficial bacteria in the microbiome and decreases the abundance of potentially harmful microbes[viii]. More research needs to be carried out to ascertain if this effect is the same in humans because this new study was carried out in rats. However, the anti-obesity effects of BB-12 look promising.
Another subspecies of Bifidobacteria animalis, B. animalis subsp. lactis CECT 8145 (Ba8145), is also a probiotic bacteria strain. A recent study carried out in 2019 and published in the International Journal of Obesity studied the effects of this strain on anthropometric adiposity markers and cardiovascular risk biomarkers in obese individuals.
During the trial, 135 obese participants consumed 1 capsule per day containing 1010colony forming units (CFU) of this bacterial strain or a placebo of maltodextrin for 3 months. The results showed that in the individuals who were given the probiotic bacteria strain registered a significantly different waist circumference, waist circumference/height ratio, and Conicity index compared to their measurements at the start of the study. The study also found that these adiposity biomarkers were significantly improved in women and that diastolic blood pressure was also decreased[ix].
The exact reasons for this are not entirely known but the researchers noted that after treatment with the live form of Ba8145 an increase in the abundance of Akkermansia was seen in the gut microbiomes of these participants.
The Akkermansia genus is interesting because it is often found in the guts of lean individuals. Some animal-based research has shown that Akkermansia has a protective effect against obesity. In this study, the abundance of Akkermansia increased as adiposity measures decreased but more research needs to be carried out in humans to determine Akkermansia’s role in obesity. However, this study has shown that Ba8145 could be a complementary intervention strategy for obesity management.
Tip:Looking to boost the Akkermansia in your gut? Try our Organic Apple Peel Powder.
Gut microbes are important mediators in the development and regulation of the intestinal immune system, and Bifidobacteria have been proven to be crucial in maintaining the intestinal barrier and regulating gut immunity.
A 2022 study demonstrated that B. animalis ssp. lactisHY8002 is important for regulating the intestinal barrier and immunity. The probiotic strain had excellent resistance to digestive tract conditions. It also induced the highest immunoglobulin A (IgA) secretion compared to 5 other Bifidobacteria strains. This is important because IgA is essential for mucosal tissue immunity and increases the body’s defence against pathogenic bacteria and other infectious agents.
That’s not the end of B. animalisssp. lactis HY8002’s talents. This impressive strain of Bifidobacteria can restore the expression of tight junction-related genes, helping to keep the barrier between the gut and the rest of the body intact and strong. Because of HY8002’s impressive and protective effect on intestinal integrity, this study helps to show that HY8002 could be a beneficial probiotic strain[x].
The Bifidobacteria genus collectively has numerous functions and benefits for human health, in the gut and beyond. You can help to diversify your own gut microbiome and build on the abundance of Bifidobacteria in your gut by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
One way you can boost Bifidobacteria in your gut is by eating and drinking fermented food and drinks, such as yoghurt and milk kefir[xi]. Fermented foods have a natural abundance of healthy bacteria, particularly Lactobacilli strains, but there are products available that are fortified with Bifidobacteria,too.
Foods that already contain Bifidobacteria are probiotic because they already contain live strains that help to supplement the levels of this microbe in your gut. Additionally, there are also prebiotic foods you can include in your diet that help to keep the Bifidobacteria already residing in your gut well nourished. In turn, these foods help to increase their numbers and their overall activity and include fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, and seeds.
Want to know more about how you can boost your Bifidobacterialevels? Read our blog.
Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) help to support the growth and activity of Bifidobacteria. A study published in 2020, studied the effects of three different HMOs (2′-fucosyllactose (2′-FL), 3-fucosyllactose (3-FL), 6′-sialyllactose (6′-SL) and one HMO’s acid hydrolysate lacto-N-triose (LNT2)) on three Bifidobacteria strains and Faecalibacterium Prausnitzii.
In short, the study found that the use of HMOs as primary carbohydrate sources is both bacterial and HMO structure dependent, but they can modulate and stimulate the growth of some Bifidobacteria strains.
At Layer Origin, HMOs are our thing, and we have many in our range that can support the abundance and activity of Bifidobacteriain your gut. Why not look at some of these?
Since the discovery of Bifidobacteria in the late 1800’s, it really has grown,not only in the number of strains, but also in popularity. Over the decades we have learnt more and more about how this little microbial superhero interacts within our own individual ecosystems, all the while aiding it in taking up residence and flourishing.
Its benefits to us are plentiful, from our first moments on the planet it becomes an important partner in developing our microbiome and gets busy producing numerous vitamins, and important chemicals as well as aiding in the repair and protection of our health. All of this with the only price tag being, having a good lifestyle and eating the right foods.
So, the next time you wash down a probiotic drink or yogurt or devour some fruit, vegetables, seeds, wholegrains or even some nuts, maybe offer a little thanks, as you send it on its way to being munched by the many microbes in your gut.
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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