Elderberry polyphenols may boost Akkermansia levels: Human data

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Hiccupy-Hiccups / Getty Images
© Hiccupy-Hiccups / Getty Images

Related tags Akkermansia Akkermansia muciniphila Gut health Prebiotic Polyphenols elderberry

Daily supplementation with 600 mg of an elderberry extract may boost diversity of the gut microbiota, with specific increases in levels of Akkermansia, says a new study from Austria and Italy.

Data from the ElderGut study, published in the Journal of Personalized Medicine,​ indicated that three weeks of supplementation with the elderberry extract (ElderCraft by Iprona AG/SPA) produced highly individualized changes to the gut microbiota of healthy young volunteers, with effects observed quickly after the start of the study.

“Overall, 92 bacterial taxa were identified at the species level to be differentially abundant in fecal samples when comparing the weeks during the intervention and/or washout period with the median abundance at baseline,” ​wrote scientists from Johannes Kepler University, VASCage (Research Centre on Vascular Ageing and Stroke) GmbH, and Iprona.

“As sudden changes in diversity measures indicate perturbation of microbial community structures this points toward a relevant microbiome-shaping capacity of this prebiotic intervention.”


Notably, significant increases in levels of Akkermansia were also recorded, and the researchers note that Akkermansia blooms have also been reported in other studies using polyphenol-rich diets, even though these bacteria do not have enzymes for degrading polyphenols.

“It is assumed, that this effect could be due to indirect interactions between dietary polyphenols and Akkermansia, mediated by other members of the microbiota,” ​they wrote. “Whether this specific effect can be considered truly prebiotic by the most recent ISAPP definitions is controversial”.

ISAPP defines prebiotics as, “A substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit”​. (Nat. Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol., 2017, 14​, 491–502​)

Akkermansia, ​and the A. muciniphila​ species in particular, has attracted growing interest for its health-promoting effects. In rodents, treatment with A. muciniphila​ reduces obesity and related disorders, such as glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and gut permeability.

The species A. muciniphila​ reportedly has an abundance of about 3% in the human colon​, and its abundance in the intestinal mucus layer is inversely correlated with BMI, type 1 diabetes, and bowel disease in humans. Akkermansia​ is known to produce nutrients that feed intestinal cells responsible for producing the intestinal mucus layer, helping to maintain healthy intestinal barrier function, control gut permeability, and control low grade inflammation in the gut.

Study details

The nine-week ElderGut study included 30 men and women aged between 18 and 50. The volunteers underwent an initial three-week period, which provided the researchers with solid baseline data. This was followed by three weeks of supplementation with the standardized ElderCraft​ elderberry extract (300 mg twice daily), and then a further three week ‘washout’ period (no supplements) to close out the study.

The 16S amplicon metagenomics data revealed that the elderberry extract led to “a profound shift in diversity indices immediately upon initiation and after termination of the compound”​. Akkermansia​ spp. was found to increase during the supplementation period, and these increases continued during the final three week washout phases in a subset of people.

Importantly, the researchers also report that the supplement was well tolerated by the participants.

“Observing the high inter-individual variability of changes in abundance during the intervention, we hypothesized that there might be underlying differences between participants at baseline that could be used to predict probability of taxonomic changes during supplementation,” ​wrote the researchers, who noted that additional analysis revealed a significant association between increasing Akkermansia​ and daily consumption of plant fats.

“… further analyses could provide better mechanistical insights in the interaction of dietary polyphenol intake, microbial abundance, enzymatic functions within the intestinal microbiota and resulting effects on the host.”

Source: Journal of Personalized Medicine
2022, 12(9), 1479; doi: 10.3390/jpm12091479
“Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Prebiotic Intervention with Polyphenols Extracted from European Black Elderberry—Sustained Expansion of ​Akkermansia spp.”
Authors: S. Reider et al.


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