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New study: the impact of cranberry extract on gut microbiota

Cranberries, renowned for their rich polyphenolic content, have long been a subject of health-related studies due to their numerous potential benefits. Recent research published in npj Biofilms and Microbiomes by Jacob Lessard-Lord et al., in March 2024, shifts the focus towards a new dimension of cranberry’s health potential – its impact on human gut microbiota through the bifidogenic effect of its extract.

Insights into the shifts induced by cranberry supplementation

The study titled “Short term supplementation with cranberry extract modulates gut microbiota in human and displays a bifidogenic effect” explores the interaction between cranberry extract and gut microbiota, highlighting the significance of both polyphenols and newly emphasized oligosaccharides. Conducted on 28 healthy participants over four days, this research provides insights into the microbial and biochemical shifts induced by cranberry supplementation.

Objectives and methodology

  • Characterize the phenolic and oligosaccharidic contents: assessing the specific types and quantities of these compounds in the commercially available cranberry extract, Prebiocran™.
  • Evaluate gut microbiota modulation: investigating how these compounds influence the gut microbiota’s composition and activity.

Participants received daily doses of cranberry extract containing measured amounts of polyphenols (109.3 mg) and oligosaccharides (125 mg, predominantly arabinoxyloglucans), encapsulated in hypromellose to study its prebiotic-like effects on the gut microbiota.

Key findings

Immediate bifidogenic effects

The cranberry extract exhibited a pronounced bifidogenic effect, substantially increasing the abundance of Bifidobacterium species, specifically B. adolescentis and B. longum. These bacteria are known for their capability to degrade complex carbohydrates such as xylo and arabinoxylan oligosaccharides.

Impact on butyrate-producing bacteria

There was also an enhanced presence of butyrate-producing genera such as Clostridium and Anaerobutyricum. Butyrate, a crucial short-chain fatty acid (SCFA), is associated with numerous health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties and potential protection against colorectal cancer.

Changes in SCFA profiles

The study noted modifications in the plasmatic and fecal SCFA profiles of participants, characterized by a decreased acetate ratio and an increased butyrate ratio, suggesting a shift towards a potentially healthier gut environment.

Inter-individual variability

The stratification of participants based on their gut microbiota composition revealed that individuals with a Prevotella-dominant microbiota experienced an increase in Faecalibacterium upon cranberry extract supplementation. This observation underscores the personalized nature of dietary interventions on gut microbiota.

The pivotal role of gut microbiota in promoting longevity and slowing aging

The gut microbiota, a complex community of microorganisms residing in the digestive tract, plays a critical role in human health, including the aging process and longevity. Research suggests that a balanced gut microbiota promotes a healthy immune system, efficient metabolism, and reduces inflammation, factors that are directly linked to aging.

As we age, the diversity of the gut microbiota tends to decrease, leading to what is known as “dysbiosis,” a state linked with chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, all of which can shorten lifespan.

Moreover, the gut microbiota influences the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate, which possess anti-inflammatory properties and are crucial for maintaining gut barrier integrity and preventing age-related diseases.

By modulating the immune response and reducing oxidative stress, a well-balanced gut microbiota can decelerate the aging process, thereby extending healthy lifespan and improving overall longevity. This underscores the potential of targeting the gut microbiota through dietary interventions, probiotics, and lifestyle modifications as promising strategies for promoting health and longevity.

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