From: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Published July 10, 2017 01:38 PM

UMass Amherst Food Scientists Find Cranberries May Aid the Gut Microbiome

Many scientists are paying new attention to prebiotics, that is, molecules we eat but cannot digest, because some may promote the growth and health of beneficial microorganisms in our intestines, says nutritional microbiologist David Sela at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In a new study, he and colleagues report the first evidence that certain beneficial gut bacteria are able to grow when fed a carbohydrate found in cranberries and further, that they exhibit a special nontypical metabolism.

Findings could add value to future food products or lead to a new supplement based on the cranberry, of which Massachusetts is a major producer. Details appear this week in the current early online edition of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, where the editorsfeature it in the “Spotlight” section that calls attention to “research articles in the upcoming issue that have been deemed of significant interest.” 

What we eat not only nourishes us but also feeds the beneficial bacteria, the microbiome, in our intestines, Sela points out, and food scientists are increasingly interested in these less obvious benefits of food. There are thought to be as many bacterial cells in our bodies as our own human cells, he points out, “so we’re basically eating for two. 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.”

Further, “a lot of plant cell walls are indigestible,” he explains, “and indeed we cannot digest the special sugars found in cranberry cell walls called xyloglucans. 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.”

Read more at University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Image: Nutritional microbiologist David Sela at UMass Amherst and his graduate student Ezgi Özcan suggest their findings on how a special sugar found in cranberry is processed in the human gut, aiding the intestinal microbiome, could add value to future food products or lead to a new supplement. (Credit: UMass Amherst)

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