This one bacterium appears to help control your body fat levels, type-2 diabetes, insulin resistance, inflammation, atherosclerosis and increase your longevity, while restoring your gut lining health; so how do you increase its numbers?
Akkermansia muciniphila is present in all healthy microbiomes, at a level of approximately 4 per cent of the 90 trillion gut microbiome bacteria present. Its decline is linked to poor health in many ways. (writes Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist and author of best seller, ‘Heal your Gut – Heal your body’).
Inside the gut wall, a healthy person has a gut lining. You are actually born without one but mother’s milk contains a production kit of immunoglobulin A and the necessary bacteria to build it after birth.
The gut wall and the gut lining form a ‘sandwich’ in which infections are detected, at least 70% of your immune response builds, and your good health flourishes.
Part of the inner gut lining is a layer of mucous. And A. muciniphilia lives there, growing its colony numbers, if the conditions are correct. It actually feeds off the mucous, which stimulates other bacteria to make more – thus it is in its own interests to ‘cross talk’ with and stimulate the surrounding mucosal microbial networks.
This sandwich is also a barrier to prevent compounds leaking from the gut straight into the bloodstream – for example, microbes, yeasts, toxins – causing an inflammatory immune response and problems around the body from CFS to Rheumatoid Arthritis. Many of these problems are so called ‘autoimmune diseases’.
Drugs, chemotherapy, antibiotics, yeasts, smoking, stress, alcohol, parasites and more can damage both the lining and the wall.
When people have a ‘Leaky Gut’ they have a problem with the whole sandwich – the gut wall, the gut lining, and the mucous membrane. And the microbiome – with loss of good bacteria and an increase in infections (pathogens). This is why taking a probiotic pill is extremely unlikely to fix the problem!
The importance of the gut wall, lining and mucous
In a separate article recently, I wrote about how butyrate-producing bacteria operate in and around this sandwich, reducing inflammation, detecting (and even attacking and killing) pathogens and cancer cells, activating vitamin D and more. Butyrate is one of three short chain fatty acids produced in your gut controlling your levels of cholesterol and even killing cancer cells. But Akkermansia muciniphilia seems even more important. It may well be the ultimate controller of your good health.
A. muciniphilia is a member of the species (family) Verrucomicrobia. It is known to improve the ‘barrier’ between gut and bloodstream (1). Several studies have linked low levels to intestinal disorders, but also to metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes and obesity are linked to altered gut microbiota, inflammation, and gut barrier disruption (2).
Weight control seems an attribute. Higher levels of A. muciniphilia correspond to lower body weight in rodents. Similarly they decrease in type-2 diabetic mice.
Metabolic syndrome seems linked to A. muciniphilia loss. The same researchers in 2015 showed that lowered levels of A. muciniphilia corresponded to greater levels of inflammation, altered fat metabolism and greater metabolic disorders. Insulin resistance and glucose metabolism seem to be influenced by groups of bacteria and A. muciniphilia seems to be the controller.
Cardiovascular disease? The role of A. muciniphilia in restoring and maintaining the gut wall has also been linked to lower levels of inflammation and atherosclerosis (3).
Immunotherapy and cancer? I have repeatedly noticed that cancer patients have levels of A. muciniphilia around 0.2 per cent not 3-4 per cent as in a healthy gut. This could be a product of the damaging chemotherapy and antibiotics, which are known to damage the gut lining. Only recently, A. muciniphilia‘s presence linked to much better outcomes with immunotherapy drugs. If you are going to use drugs to boost the immune system, it helps to have a full set of bacteria making one, I guess!
Longevity? Unfortunately, levels of A. muciniphilia decline as we age. In fact, some scientists see it as the anti-ageing bacterium.
Increasing numbers of A. muciniphilia
Yes, you could take probiotic supplements of this bacterium, although results are mixed in research. Better seems to be to take Bifidobacterium animalis which seems to stimulate A. muciniphilia growth and there have been links between B. animalis and longevity, maybe for this reason.
It would seem though that you may be better to eat to stimulate its numbers –
- A high soluble fibre diet increases the mucin layer;
- Polyphenol extracts:
– Dietary supplements of Cranberry extract and Concord grapes
– Green tea
Early days yet, but clearly Akkermansia muciniphilia seems to help rebuild the gut barrier, restrict inflammation, reduce fat, control glucose, improve obesity, type-2 diabetes, prevent atherosclerosis and maybe help you live longer.
Not bad for a bacterium so small you can’t see it with the naked eye!
- I.G. Macchione et al; A. muciniphilia key player in metabolic and gastrointestinal disorders; Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sciences; 2019, Sept 23.
- Cross-talk between Akkermansia muciniphila and intestinal epithelium controls diet-induced obesity; Amadine Everard et al; Proc Nat Ac sciences, USA; 2013, May 26.
- American Heart Association study; Circulation; 2016, June 14; 133; Jin Li et al.