Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Latest Gut Microbiome Modulators: Beneficial Effects of Cacao, Negative Effects of Acidic Water and Preliminary Evidence of the Negative Impact of Gluten & Whole Grains

Pancakes al cacao & your gut: Bad grains and good cacao?
There is an increasing amount of interesting scientific publications on the role of the gut microbiome in health and disease. Unfortunately, the evidence on what exactly influences the number and types of bacteria in our gut in a beneficial way and even what exactly a "beneficial way" actually is, is yet largely unknown.

In today's installment of the SuppVersity Short News, I am going to take a closer look at a selection of recent studies that may shed at least some light at the previously mentioned questions.
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  • Cacao as a gut microbiome modulator - The first study we're going to look at deals with cacao. Cacao and its effect on the gut microbiome. In said study, 3-week-old Wistar and Brown Norway rats were fed, for 4 weeks, either a standard diet or the following three isoenergetic diets containing increasing proportions of cocoa flavonoids from different sources: one with 0·2 % polyphenols (from conventional defatted cocoa), and two others with 0·4 and 0·8 % polyphenols (from non-fermented cocoa, very rich in polyphenols).

    Only the regular theobromine containing cacao did also reduce the weight gain in the three-week study (Massot-Cladera. 2014).
    What the scientist found, when they analyzed the serum Ig concentrations, faecal IgA levels, microbiota composition and IgA-coating bacterial proportion at the end of the study and compared them to those at the beginning was a significant beneficial effect on the mucosal IgA levels and microbiota composition from all supplements. The 0.2 % cacao diet which contained a higher proportion of theobromine and fibre, however, had a more profound impact on the aforementioned parameters - in spite of the fact that there was less cacao in the diet. Obviously, the caffeine-like bitter alkaloid from cacao is contributes to the beneficial effects of cacao in a similar way as the polyphenols.

    As the body weight data in Figure 1 shows, the theobromine containing conventional cacao was also the only one that was able to reduce the diet induced weight gain in the rats. This could, but does not necessarily have to be related to the higher levels of Bacteroides, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus bacteria in the gut of the rodents that received the "cheap" conventional cacao.
  • Acidic water triggers type I diabetes - probably by modulating the gut microbiome - No, I am not trying to advertise bicarbonate, here. I am just reporting the results of a recent study from the Medical University of South Carolina which found that a stain of mice that's particularly susceptible to type I diabetes developed insulitis and hyperglycemia rapidly, only when the mice were maintained on acidic pH water (AW).

    Suggested Article: "High Dietary Acid Load Doubles Risk of Type II Diabetes in Lean Individuals! Causative or Corollary? Plus: Are Grains, not Meats the Main Offenders in Our Diet?" | read more.
    The scientists also observed that this effect could be countered by fecal transplants and was obviously triggered by changes in the diversity of the gut flora that occurred, when the pH of drinking water was in the acidic range and were probably related to the proinflammatory cytokine response in the intestinal mucosa.

    As you as a SuppVersity reader know previous studies in humans have already shown that a "High Dietary Acid Load Doubles Risk of Type II Diabetes in Lean Individuals!" (read more) - Who knows, this could also be related to the effect on the gut microbiome!?
  • Gluten and whole grains as modulators of the gut microbome - In two recent randomized cross-over trials, researchers from the University of Copenhagen determined the impact of dietary gluten or whole grains on the gut microbiome and host metabolic health.

    What the researchers found was what the recent backlash against gluten and "healthy" whole grains on the internet would suggest the already overweight "[p]articipants had slightly elevated fasting glucose levels and increased waist circumference" (Ibrügger. 2014).
    Table 1: Overview of the products used in the randomized controlled cross-over trials (Ibrügger. 2014)
    Whether that's related to the effects on the gut microbome is unfortunately something I can't tell you, yet. Why? Well, the currently available paper refers to a future publication that would outline the detailed results. All I can tell you now is that the study used the products listed in Table 1 and, more importantly, that it is its high statistical power, which, due to the large sample size and the crossover design, "allows detecting even small diffrences in the outcome variables" (Ibrügger. 2014).
Suppversity Suggested: "Stevia Kills Good Gut Bacteria - One Study Enough to Stop Using the Natural Sweetener? Probably Not in View of its Anti-Diabetes, Anti-LDL, Anti-Viral & Anti-Cancer Effects" | more
Bottom line: It's a pity that we still can't tell for sure what the "optimal" gut microbiome looks like. Moreover, the currently available scientific evidence suggests that what is considered "optimal" may well depend on your type of diet and / or your metabolic health.

Against that background the previously presented results offer nothing but a brief glimpse at what may become one of the hottest topics in obesity and diabetes prevention in the future. At the moment, though, all the results and any recommendations that are based on these results have to be considered preliminary. And this is also true for the gluten + whole grain study of which you will certainly read again, here at the SuppVersity | Comment on Facebook!
  • Ibrügger, S., et al. "Two Randomized Cross-Over Trials Assessing the Impact of Dietary Gluten or Wholegrain on the Gut Microbiome and Host Metabolic Health." J Clin Trials 4.178 (2014): 2167-0870.
  • Massot-Cladera, Malen, et al. "Impact of cocoa polyphenol extracts on the immune system and microbiota in two strains of young rats." British Journal of Nutrition 112.12 (2014): 1944-1954.
  • Sofi, M. Hanief, et al. "pH of drinking water influences the composition of gut microbiome and type 1 diabetes incidence." Diabetes 63.2 (2014): 632-644.