Author: Melissa Healy
Move over Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. There’s a new health-promoting gut bacterium in town, and it’s called Akkermansia muciniphila.
You will not find its benefits at the bottom of a yogurt cup. But a new study has identified more than one way to nurture its growth in the gut, and offered evidence that it may maintain — and even restore — health as we age.
Published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the new research found that in mice and monkeys whose metabolisms had grown cranky with age, taking steps to boost A. muciniphila in the gut reduced the animals’ insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is the gradual impairment of the body’s ability to efficiently use food for fuel. It is best known as a way station on a patient’s path to developing type 2 diabetes.
But insulin resistance is also linked to a rogue’s gallery of ills, from obesity and inflammation to the sagging immunity and frailty that comes with advancing age. If a readily available means of slowing or reversing insulin resistance could be identified, it might have broad and powerful anti-aging effects (in addition to protecting some of the world’s 650 million adults who are obese against developing type 2 diabetes).
First identified in 2004, Akkermansia muciniphila inhabits the large intestine and is thought to account for between 1% and 5% of all intestinal bacteria in adults. Scientists suspect it helps preserve the coat of mucus that lines the walls of our intestines. It may also play a role in making the polyphenols we eat in plant-based foods more available to our cells.
Evidence is mounting that A. muciniphila is involved in obesity, glucose metabolism and intestinal immunity.
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