Emulsifiers, additives present in many industrial foods, upset the balance of our microbiota and our intestine. But according to a new French study, a bacterium could have a protective effect and help us defend against their harmful impact.
- Akkermansia muciniphila is not unknown in the medical world: it has been studied for twenty years.
- “We know that it plays a role in inflammatory bowel disease,” explains gastroenterologist William Berrebi.
- “Patients who suffer from these diseases have a deficiency in this bacterium which usually represents 5% of the microbiota”, he adds.
They are found in sauces, children’s snacks or industrial ice cream, as well as in many processed food products. These are emulsifiers, additives particularly widespread in the food industry to improve the texture and keep food longer.
Emulsifiers: what dangers for our intestinal health?
The problem is that they produce several harmful effects on the intestinal microbiota, listed in the scientific literature, which can lead to inflammations. “In humans as in mice, food additives have been shown to alter the composition of the microbiota”explains Benoît Chassaing, Inserm research director at the Cochin Institute.
Fortunately, according to a new study conducted by a team of French researchers from Inserm published in the journal gutwhich Benoît Chassaing led, this damage could be countered thanks to a bacterium called Akkermansia muciniphila. This bacterium, when consumed in the form of probiotics, would limit the impact of emulsifiers on our microbiota.
A bacterium that slows down the degradation of the intestinal wall
Indeed, the intestinal wall usually serves as a protection against bacteria and inflammatory substances. However, when there is a disruption of the microbiota, for example due to an unbalanced diet that is too rich in additives, the intestinal wall becomes more permeable. Pathogenic bacteria and inflammatory substances therefore cross this barrier more easily and reach the bloodstream.
According to the researchers, the bacteria Akkermansia muciniphila helps protect the lining of the intestine because it makes mucus that prevents bad bacteria from passing through. During their study on mice, the Inserm scientists noticed that when they added this bacterium to the diet of rodents, the wall of their intestine was much less damaged. If these results are also observed in humans, “we could slow down the degradation of the wall which prevents the passage of toxic substances into the blood and into various organs”says Dr. William Berrebi, a gastroenterologist in Paris.