What is Akkermansia and What You Need To Know About It
Written by: Clarissa Lenherr
Trillions of microorganisms exist in our body, playing crucial roles in maintaining our health, and one bacteria has recently taken the spotlight for its promising health benefits – Akkermansia Muciniphila.
Often referred to as the "weight loss bacteria," Akkermansia has been linked to various health benefits, from metabolic improvements to immune system support. (1)
Akkermansia is a type of bacteria that lives in the mucous layer of the gut, particularly the large intestine. Unlike some unfriendly bacteria, Akkermansia is considered a "friendly" microorganism that can benefit our overall health in several ways.
What makes Akkermansia so special? Well apart from its studied role in many health areas, it has the remarkable ability to utilise mucin, a glycoprotein that forms the protective layer lining the gastrointestinal tract, to feed on and thrive! It therefore doesn’t rely on the food we consume to survive, and can even function in a fasted state.
In addition, Akkermansia breaks down mucin and produces short-chain fatty acids such as Acetate. These short-chain fatty acids can be used by other bacteria to produce butyrate, another short-chain fatty acid that provides energy to our gut cells!
Discovered relatively recently in 2004, this bacteria has been the subject of extensive research to unravel its potential impact on human health. Keep reading to discover why you should care about this powerhouse bacteria.
Benefits of Akkermansia
Gut Barrier Integrity
By metabolizing mucin, Akkermansia contributes to the turnover of the mucosal layer, a crucial component of the gut barrier. This degradation process not only helps to maintain the integrity of the mucosal barrier but also provides substrates for other beneficial microbes in the gut.
The gut barrier is a dynamic interface that separates the body's internal environment from the external makeup of the gut. A robust gut barrier prevents the release of harmful substances, toxins, and pathogens into the bloodstream and may make you less likely to develop dysbiosis and chronic illness over time.
Akkermansia may support the immune system by maintaining the health of the gut lining. This bacteria contributes to a balanced and responsive immune system, helping the body defend against infections and illnesses. Studies have looked at Akkermansia levels in healthy and sick people and found that healthier people have a higher presence of this friendly bacteria. (2)
Akkermansia has gained a reputation for potentially supporting weight loss, however, the role Akkermansia plays is still not fully understood. Research suggests a correlation between higher levels of Akkermansia and improved metabolic parameters, including enhanced insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. In 2020, a study revealed a correlation between elevated levels of Akkermansia in individuals and a reduced risk of obesity. However, correlation does not necessarily indicate causation and additional research is needed to establish a definitive cause-and-effect relationship between Akkermansia and weight loss. (3)
How can I naturally boost Akkermansia?
You cannot currently find live cultures of Akkermansia in food, but the best way to boost your intake is via polyphenol-rich foods. We all know the importance of eating lots of fruit and veggies, but spotlighting polyphenols is a great way to pack in extra antioxidants and increase the abundance of Akkermansia in the gut. (4)
Polyphenol-rich foods can be challenging to fully absorb by the body, so their presence can actually have a direct impact on our intestinal bacteria. Therefore, Akkermansia may contribute to the antioxidant effects that these polyphenols are known for, increasing the benefits of the polyphenols you eat! (5)
My favourite foods to boost Akkermansia include…
Cranberries or real 100% cranberry juice
Cocoa, Cacao and Dark chocolate
Coffee and Tea
Consume Healthy Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel), flaxseeds, and walnuts, have been linked to a diverse and beneficial gut microbiome, and healthy fats can support the mucus in the gut lining. Including sources of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet may contribute to a gut environment conducive to Akkermansia growth. (6)
Akkermansia appears to thrive on certain types of dietary fibres - prebiotics. These fibres are found in various plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Increasing your intake of fibre-rich foods may provide a supportive environment for Akkermansia. My favourites are flaxseeds, apples, raw garlic and onion, leeks and jerusalem artichokes.
Akkermansia is still very new when it comes to research but what we do know is that it is a beneficial gut bacteria and has a promising outlook.
So, what's the takeaway? Consume colourful plates full of polyphenol-rich fruits and veggies and you're on your way to supporting your gut-loving Akkermansia!