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  • Tediana Torrens

Akkermansia: The New Probiotic With Promising Health Effects

The human gut is home to a diverse ecosystem of microorganisms, commonly called the microbiome. Among these microorganisms, Akkermansia is a species that has gained significant attention in recent years due to its potential health-promoting properties. Keep reading to explore the fascinating world of Akkermansia and its association with various diseases, weight management, gut health, and longevity.

Where Does It Live?

Akkermansia is one of the most abundant single species found in the gut, taking up residence specifically in the gut lining. Working together with mucin - which is produced by the cells in the GI tract - Akkermansia helps to create and maintain a strong mucous layer. With poor diet over time, the mucous layer can break down and become more fragile. Ultimately, this leads to "leaky gut", inflammation, and negative effects to the whole body.


More Akkermansia, Less Disease

Studies have revealed an inverse correlation between Akkermansia levels and several diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD; Crohn's and UC), liver disease, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes (T2DM), prediabetes, and high cholesterol. Less Akkermansia was also associated with greater inflammation. An inverse correlation essentially means that these diseases were associated with lower levels of Akkermansia - the less of the bacteria around, the more likely these diseases were seen. On the other hand, higher levels of Akkermansia have been associated with a reduced risk of these conditions.


Weight Management and BMI

Akkermansia appears to be supportive in weight management, with higher levels of Akkermansia being correlated with lower weight and BMI. However, BMI is typically not a great indicator as it does not factor in adipose tissue (fat) v. muscle. When looking closer, high levels of Akkermansia were specifically associated with less visceral fat. Visceral fat specifically wraps around organs (not the fat on your arms, legs, butt, etc.) and is associated with metabolic disorders and disease.

A quick note here - I fully practice under a HAES (Health At Every Size) model, in which the size of your body does not determine your health and higher numbers on the scale do not indicate disease. While there are many hormone imbalances, digestive disorders and other diseases that can ultimately lead to weight gain, it's important to recognize that there are many body shapes and sizes that are healthy.


Association with Longevity

Studies have found that individuals who live exceptionally long lives, including centenarians and semisupercentenarians (over 105 years old), have higher amounts of Akkermansia in their gut. It should be noted that there were likely many, many other factors that played a role in the long lifespan on these individuals, but we can speculate that Akkermansia was one of those factors.


Increasing Akkermansia

Generally speaking, a healthy diet that places an emphasis plants, prebiotics and fiber, should increase the abundance of Akkermansia in the gut. Some specific supplements that have been shown to increase levels include pomegranate extract, curcumin, cranberry extract and black tea.

 

Most of the findings above came from in vitro (non-human, like cells in a petri dish) and mouse studies, with some findings coming from human data. While more studies are needed to fully understand its mechanisms and potential therapeutic applications in humans, maintaining a healthy gut microbiota, including fostering the growth of Akkermansia, through a balanced diet and lifestyle appears to be a promising approach to support overall well-being and longevity.


References

Cani, Patrice D., and Willem M. de Vos. “Next-Generation Beneficial Microbes: The Case of Akkermansia Muciniphila.” Frontiers in Microbiology 8

(2017). https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2017.01765.

Geerlings, Sharon Y., Ioannis Kostopoulos, Willem M. De Vos, and Clara Belzer. “Akkermansia Muciniphila in the Human Gastrointestinal Tract: When,

Where, and How?” Microorganisms 6, no. 3 (July 23, 2018). https://doi.org/10.3390.

Xu, Yu, Ning Wang, Hor-Yue Tan, Sha Li, Cheng Zhang, and Yibin Feng. “Frontiers | Function of Akkermansia Muciniphila in Obesity: Interactions With

Lipid Metabolism, Immune Response and Gut Systems.” Frontiers 11 (February 21, 2020).

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2020.00219/full.

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