It’s time for your semi-regular reminder of just how important those bacteria living in your body are. So important, in fact, that they likely have a hand in every single aspect of your health.
But today, I want to talk about one benefit in particular—and that’s as a natural weapon against diabesity.
A bug with big benefits
According to a new study, if you have lots of a bacterium called Akkermansia muciniphila (A. muciniphila) in your intestinal tract, there’s a good chance you’ll also be thinner and have an easier time losing weight.
Let me explain: Research shows that, in humans, populations of A. muciniphila shrink as body mass index (BMI) rises. Meanwhile, studies on overfed mice demonstrated that treatment with the live bacterium cut weight gain in half.
And while that’s an important place to start, it doesn’t tell us much about how the bacterium might benefit humans. Which is why this latest research on patients with metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance is so promising.
Researchers randomized 32 subjects to take a live supplement of A. muciniphila, a pasteurized (and therefore dead) supplement of the bacterium, or a placebo. The treatment groups took roughly 10 billion bacteria daily for three months.
The main goal was to assess risks—and unsurprisingly, there weren’t any adverse events.
But, here’s where things get more interesting: When the researchers crunched their data, they also discovered improvements in a number of metabolic health markers among groups taking the bacteria.
Compared with placebo, insulin sensitivity shot up while total cholesterol and some liver markers decreased. And interestingly (but not surprisingly), there was also a significant decrease in white blood cell counts among subjects taking the bacteria—a change that points to a strengthening of the gut barrier.
And given all the times I’ve talked about leaky gut—which interferes with nutrient absorption and increases inflammation, among other nasty consequences—I probably don’t need to remind you what a major benefit this is.
The secret’s in the slime
This study did have some weird findings, too. Like the fact that, in almost every instance, the pasteurized dead bacteria worked better than the live bacteria. But the autoclaved bacteria—the kind you’ll find in all those freeze-dried probiotics I warn against—didn’t work at all.
And here’s why: A. muciniphila is covered in exopolysaccharides—which is just a fancy term for what is basically slime. And this protects a protein in the bacterium’s membrane called “Amuc_1100” from destruction by the body’s immune system.
As it turns out, that protein may be the real secret behind A. muciniphila’s metabolic benefits.
For one thing, studies show that mice enjoy the same benefits whether receiving the pasteurized bacteria or the protein alone. And the autoclaving process destroys Amuc_1100, while simple pasteurization leaves it intact. (Which explains why the former is useless while the latter works its magic.)
So, all in all, this is a promising study. But this probiotic won’t hit the market until at least 2021. And then, hopefully, it’ll remain a nutritional supplement that’s available to everyone, rather than turned into a pricy drug only accessible to few.
Because like any meaningful “breakthrough,” you and I both know that’s exactly the direction this is headed. It’s a story as old as the pharmaceutical industry itself: Scientists isolate the important parts to make a patentable medication. And as a result, we miss out on the full scope of what bugs like this can truly provide.
Or worse, we suffer the unintended consequences of conventional medicine’s myopic thinking. Because when it comes to biological organisms like your body, tinkering with one thing doesn’t merely generate a single effect, but many. And one look at the side effects of any given drug will tell you that they’re not all good.
The science here is still developing, of course. So it may be a while before mainstream medicine figures out a shortcut to manipulate the microbiome.
But in the meantime, you have the benefit of knowing that you have some control over your own microbiome’s health. In fact, I devoted a two-part series to exactly that in the March and April 2019 issues of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives.
So as always, if you’re not yet a subscriber, consider signing up today. Your gut will thank you for it, in more ways than one.
“This Slimy Bacterium May Fight Obesity.” Medscape Medical News, 07/03/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/914897)