Cranberries may benefit gut bacteria

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Reprinted with the kind permission of Life Extension.

July 26 2017. An article published on June 30, 2017 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology describes a role for cranberries in promoting the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. A carbohydrate that occurs in the fruit appears to function as a prebiotic: a nondigestible compound that nourishes probiotic microorganisms.

“We’re basically eating for two,” commented lead researcher David Sela, who is a nutritional microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “These gut bacteria are extremely significant to us, they really are very important. Our food makes a difference for us as well as the beneficial microbes that we carry around with us.”

“A lot of plant cell walls are indigestible, and indeed we cannot digest the special sugars found in cranberry cell walls called xyloglucans,” Dr Sela explained. “But when we eat cranberries, the xyloglucans make their way into our intestines where beneficial bacteria can break them down into useful molecules and compounds.”

For their study, Dr Sela and colleagues tested the effects of isolated xyloglucans on the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum. Theyfound a change in fermentative endproducts secreted by B. longum subsequent to administration of xyloglycans, indicating metabolism of the prebiotic.

“With probiotics, we are taking extra doses of beneficial bacteria that may or may not help our gut health,” Dr Sela stated. “But with prebiotics, we already know that we have the beneficial guys in our guts, so let’s feed them! Let’s give them more nutrients and things that they like. They make molecules and compounds that help us, or they make it to help some of the hundreds of other kinds of beneficial members of the community. They are consuming things we can’t digest, or they are helping other beneficial microbes that we find it hard to introduce as probiotics, or their presence can help keep pathogens away.”

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