The adage “you are what you eat” has some truth to it. The thing is that the types of food that we eat also affects our health. What we eat does not only provide us the nutrients that our body needs to sustain different metabolic processes, but it also feeds the beneficial microbiomes in our intestines.
The word prebiotics and probiotics are becoming a trend in the food industry these days. Prebiotic foods can help improve the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, and they are essentially a nondigestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines. The human body is made up of billions of bacterial cells–more than human cells. The majority of these microbial cells are found in the intestines and what we eat affects the types of bacteria that we carry in our digestive system.
We are finding it is important to feed our gut microflora with the right kinds of foods. While it is crucial to consume more fiber from fruits and vegetables, plant cell walls are indigestible. According to David Sela, a nutritional microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, some beneficial gut bacteria can grow when fed cranberries.
The Cranberry-Gut Microflora Connection
Cranberries contain xyloglucans, a type of particular sugar, that the gut microflora can use to synthesize different compounds. This sugar can improve the health of the digestive system. In turn, this allows our digestive system to perform to its full potential so that it can absorb more nutrients from food.
To conduct the study, researchers used a type of beneficial bacterium called bifidobacteria and fed it with purified xyloglucan in an oxygen-free environment inside the laboratory. Research indicated that the gut bacteria could use up the xyloglucan and it encouraged the bacteria to undergo a proper metabolism that produces less lactic acid and formic acid.
Unfortunately, researchers are not yet sure about the exact health impacts of the study, but they suspected that the metabolism of xyloglucans from cranberries could have a significant implication on the entire microbial community in the intestines. The active interaction of the microbial flora in the stomach creates a healthier digestive system.
The Implications of The Study
This information can provide opportunities for future food products to contain cranberries to improve the gut health of consumers. With this study, there is a stronger need for food manufacturers to focus on developing products that have prebiotic benefits.
The cranberry study is a good example of what prebiotics can do. While probiotics are all about taking extra doses of beneficial bacteria, prebiotics is all about feeding the stomach with the right food to encourage the growth of beneficial microflora. In a way, prebiotics allows us to increase the number of good bacteria in our digestive system naturally, and these good bacteria can work in digesting foods that our stomach can’t. Moreover, it can also address other issues in the bowel such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and other chronic inflammation disorders.
Tapping into the potential of prebiotics through the cranberry study can help transform the health food industry.