We now know how important gut bacteria are for our overall health: they convert our food into vitamins and other beneficial compounds, boost our immune system and protect against unwanted invaders. The better we understand which routes gut bacteria use to convert our food, the better we understand their effect on the development of cardiometabolic diseases such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes. This can be a great benefit in a society where a growing number of people suffer from one or more of these diseases.
A new conversion route
Biotech company Caelus and Wageningen University & Research are investigating these conversion routes together with various international knowledge partners. They discovered a new route by which the carbohydrate inositol in the diet is converted into propionate and acetate. “We know that these so-called short-chain fatty acids improve metabolic health in humans,” says Willem de Vos, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Wageningen University & Research, who is leading this research.
“Inositol occurs naturally in the body, but also in certain foods. It is also used as a supplement because it affects the way our body handles glucose.” That is why he calls discovering the new route a valuable insight. “Knowing how inositol is converted by intestinal bacteria to propionate and acetate also gives us valuable information about the effect of this substance on insulin sensitivity.”
“Our next step is to conduct broader research among people at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes,” said Willem de Vos. In the case of the studied intestinal bacteria, the optimal treatment frequency, duration and dosage must first be determined. It must also be investigated how the bacteria in question interact with other bacteria in the human intestinal tract. This follow-up research may lead to a new generation of bacterial supplements that can improve gut health and prevent, alleviate or cure disease.
The described study was recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications. For more information about the collaboration between Caelus Health and WUR, see the article in English on the website of the Laboratory of Microbiology.