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Gut Bacteria: Akkermansia Muciniphila Can Improve Metabolic Health

Studies in mice showed that A. muciniphila can lower body fat mass, improve glucose homoeostasis, decrease adipose tissue inflammation and increase gut integrity…

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Previous studies have demonstrated an association between gut microbiome and metabolic disease and cardiovascular risks. The role of A. muciniphila remains unclear in humans but it was found to be more abundant in subjects with normal glucose tolerance compared with prediabetic groups. However, contradicting results reported in other studies suggest that differences in study design, methodology and population characteristics such as ethnicity, age and diet may have influenced the outcome of these studies.

A research team including Prof. Karine Clément of the Institute of Cardiometabolism and Nutrition (ICAN), the INSERM/University of Paris and Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in France conducted a study with 6-week calorie restriction followed by a 6-week weight stabilization diet in 49 overweight and obese adults. Blood samples and fecal samples were collected to analyze lipid profile and presence of A. muciniphila, respectively. X-ray absorptiometry was also used to determine presence of fat cells under the skin. The team’s objective was to evaluate the association between fecal A. muciniphila abundance, fecal microbiome gene richness, diet, host characteristics, and their changes after calorie restriction.

Based on the results, the researchers found that low levels of A. muciniphila at baseline was correlated with high fasting blood glucose, greater waist-to-hip ratio and larger subcutaneous adipocyte diameter. Participants with higher level of A. muciniphila displayed a healthier metabolic status including lower fasting blood glucose, increase in insulin sensitivity and lower plasma triglycerides. The team believed that the low-calorie diet reduced A. muciniphila levels among participants, though individuals with high level baseline A. muciniphila still exhibited greater improvement in body fat distribution and metabolic profile after calorie restriction.

The results of the study demonstrated that similar benefits seen in mice may also be achieved in human. The abundance of A. muciniphila is linked to healthier metabolic status and better fat distribution. The team also observed "a variety of fermentation products produced by A. muciniphila. These may serve as energy sources for other bacteria and the host." The team believe that this cross-feeding contributes to the expansion of other beneficial species. Nevertheless, future studies are necessary to investigate the mechanism underlying the role of A. muciniphila in metabolic health and fat distribution.

Practice Pearls:

  • A. muciniphila can lower body fat mass, improve glucose homoeostasis, decrease adipose tissue inflammation and increase gut integrity.
  • Individuals with higher level of A. muciniphila displayed a healthier metabolic status including lower fasting blood glucose, increase in insulin sensitivity and lower plasma triglycerides.
  • A. muciniphila produces a variety of fermentation products that contribute to the expansion of the beneficial species in the gut.

Karine Clément et al,. Akkermansia muciniphila and improved metabolic health during a dietary intervention in obesity: relationship with gut microbiome richness and ecology, Gut, doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2014-308778, published online 22 June 2015.