I’ve previously discussed the importance of the bowel flora species, Akkermansia muciniphila. Having abundant (around 5% of total bowel flora) Akkermansia helps minimize insulin resistance, fatty liver, reduces triglycerides, blood sugar and blood pressure. The benefits of Akkermansia on blood sugar are so substantial that there is now a commercial probiotic called Pendulum that targets people with type 2 diabetes. ($198 for a one-month supply! They clearly are going to go toe-to-toe with the Big Pharma diabetes franchise.)
Akkermansia is a keystone species that supports (via metabolites and stimulation of mucus production) other bacterial species. Supporting growth of Akkermansia thereby not only increases the numbers of this microbe, but supports other healthy bacterial species.
The numbers of Akkermansia in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract diminish sharply as we age and, with it, we become more susceptible to insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and gain weight more readily. Loss of abundant Akkermansia also leads to a thinner intestinal mucus lining, allowing bacteria to directly contact intestinal cells, and increases bacterial endotoxemia, i.e., the entry of bacterial byproducts (such as lipopolysaccharide, LPS) into the bloodstream. Recall that endotoxemia is the process that explains how bowel flora can express effects on the skin as rosacea, in the brain as Parkinson’s disease, in the joints and muscles as fibromyalgia, in the legs as restless leg syndrome.
Short of taking an Akkermansia probiotic, there are foods that increase its numbers that I mentioned in my previous Wheat Belly Blog post on this microbe. This includes:
- Fructooligosaccharides, FOS–An especially powerful trigger for Akkermansia, increasing its growth as much as one thousand-fold. (Inulin likely has a similar effect, though this has not been formally studied.) FOS are likely the “preferred” energy source for Akkermansia, as it is more vigorously consumed than any other potential nutrient.
- Metformin–This drug commonly used as first-line treatment of type 2 diabetes increases Akkermansia and reduces lipopolysaccharide entry into the bloodstream, thereby reducing inflammation.
- Various flavonoids/polyphenols–Black tea, red wine/Concord grape juice, and rhubarb increase the Akkermansia population.
Let’s add olive oil to the list, a vigorous trigger of Akkermansia proliferation. While many of olive oil’s health benefits are due to the polyphenols such as hydroxytyrosol (that microbes metabolize), the trigger for Akkermansia comes from oleic acid, the monounsaturated fatty acid that comprises 60-70% of the fats in olive oil. Oleic acid, in turn, is the precursor to an endocannabinoid, oleoylethanolamide (OEA), that is a vigorous stimulant for Akkermansia proliferation.
Recall that, while Akkermansia provides many metabolic health benefits, it can also turn against you if you fail to take in prebiotic fibers, as many people do on ketogenic or carnivorous diets. In this situation, while other microbes that rely on prebiotic fibers die or are reduced in numbers, Akkermansia proliferates, occupying 10-18% of all bowel flora due to its ability to feed on human mucus. As Akkermansia feeds on the intestinal mucus lining, it exposes the intestinal wall to bacteria, increases endotoxemia, and opens the door to conditions such as diverticular disease, ulcerative colitis, and autoimmune conditions. As long as you continue to consume prebiotic fibers, you keep Akkermansia from overconsumption of the mucus lining.
Use more olive oil in your daily dishes, enjoy the uptick in Akkermansia populations, see the phenomena of insulin resistance and inflammation recede, even if you have taken the bold steps of banishing all wheat and grains from your diet and limiting sugars.