New research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has found that cranberries support the growth of certain healthy bacteria in the stomach.
Recently, the study of prebiotics has become popular among scientists interested in how positive bacteria grows in humans. I’m sure you’ve heard of antibiotics and maybe even probiotics, but what is a prebiotic?
These are molecules, often in food, that we consume but that our bodies cannot actually digest. This new area of research has become so prominent due to findings that these prebiotics may promote growth of the healthy bacteria found in our stomach and intestines.
This may seem unimportant to us at first glance. Why should consuming these prebiotics be so important if our bodies cannot digest them? Why should I consume foods that benefit a type of bacteria? The reason goes back to those very same bacteria that consuming the prebiotics promotes.
Prebiotics are good for gut health
When we eat a prebiotic, they travel down into our gut and intestines where the beneficial bacteria can break them down further into components that our bodies can use. Without the microbiome in our intestines, these foods just pass right through us without truly being digested.
This new research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that cranberries are one of these prebiotics. This is the first time that tangible evidence has been found to this effect. The researchers decided to test out the possibility that cranberries could be used in a supplement to benefit gut health. UMASS Amherst has been doing studies around cranberries and their many uses for over 60 years. In order to complete this study, the researchers at UMASS Amherst teamed up with Ocean Spray, Inc. and researchers from the University of Rhode Island.
As part of the study, the tram gathered masses of purified xyloglucan, which is the specialized sugar within the plant walls of cranberries that humans cannot digest properly on their own. They then fed “this purified plant sugar as the only carbohydrate available to the bifidobacteria living in 96-well plates in an anaerobic environment in the laboratory.” Bifidobacteria are most prevalent in the gut of newborn babies, who are breastfed specifically, but are sometimes found in adults as well.
What the researchers found was that the bifidobacteria did actually take in the xyloglucans, and after consumption. they exhibited special metabolic properties that are atypical to these bacteria. Generally, bifidobacteria secrete lactic acid, but the bifidobacteria that were fed the xyloglucans secreted less than the normal amount and also produced formic acid.
The researchers from this study say that the full implications of these results cannot yet be understood, but it is clear that continuing to research prebiotics is vitally important for sustaining the health of the microbiome in our gut. These bacteria break down foods our bodies cannot on their own, and produce compounds beneficial to our overall health.
So, the researchers say, why not focus on what we can do to help promote their growth and sustainability?
Related: Secret to good gut health