Administration of the intestinal bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila protects against dietary emulsifier additives

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New research led at Institut Cochin by Benoit Chassaing, in collaboration with Andrew Gewirtz from Georgia State University, found that administering the intestinal bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila can overcome deleterious impacts of food additive dietary emulsifiers. Akkermansia muciniphila is present in the intestine of healthy people but is depleted by emulsifiers. Addition of this bacterium prevented emulsifiers from damaging gut and metabolic health of mice fed with these food additives. These findings, published in Gut journal, add to the increasingly appreciated potential of Akkermansia muciniphila to serve as a probiotic capable of restoring intestinal and metabolic health.

Previous work from Dr. Chassaing’s team demonstrated that consumption of some dietary emulsifiers, commonly used by the food industry to improve texture and extend shelf-life, associate with alterations in microbiota (the consortium of trillions of microorganisms colonizing various body sides) and its interaction with the intestinal tract, leading to chronic intestinal inflammation and metabolic deregulations. While most of these observations were made in pre-clinical in vivo models, a randomized double-blind clinical trial in healthy volunteers demonstrated the ability of commonly used emulsifier carboxymethylcellulose to detrimentally impact the intestinal microbiota and its interaction with the intestinal lining. More specifically, this past research demonstrated that dietary emulsifier consumption leads to the ability of select microbiota members to get in close contact with the epithelium – the first line of defense in the intestinal tract which is normally nearly sterile.

Current study. In this recent study, the researchers strived to counteract the deleterious effects induced by emulsifier consumption by fortifying the intestinal epithelium through the use of the next generation probiotic bacteria named Akkermansia muciniphila, previously observed to hold the power to beneficially modulate host-microbiota interaction within the intestine. Moreover, this microbiota member was previously found to be depleted following emulsifier consumption, suggesting it could be part of the equation leading to emulsifier-induced detrimental impact on health.
Mice received dietary emulsifiers regimen, supplemented or not with a daily administration of Akkermansia muciniphila. The scientists observed that, while chronic consumption of dietary emulsifiers was sufficient to induce chronic low-grade intestinal inflammation together with altered metabolism, mice receiving Akkermansia muciniphila were fully protected from such deleterious effects. Emulsifier consumption, by itself, was found to alter host gene expression, microbiota composition and microbiota localization. Administration of Akkermansia muciniphila prevented all these alterations, including preventing microbiota encroachment toward the epithelium, which is thought to be pivotal event in chronic gut inflammation. Altogether, this suggests that probiotic potential of Akkermansia muciniphila holds the power to fortify the intestinal barrier in a way that protect the host from perturbations normally induced by select food additives.

To conclude, this work supports the notion that use of Akkermansia muciniphila as a probiotic can maintain metabolic and intestinal health against modern stresses that normally promote chronic intestinal inflammation and downstream detrimental consequences. Moreover, it suggests that intestinal colonization with endogenous Akkermansia muciniphila might dictate individual’s proneness to dietary-emulsifier induced disturbances.


Akkermansia muciniphila counteracts the deleterious effects of dietary emulsifiers on microbiota and host metabolism. Noëmie Daniel, Andrew Gewirtz, Benoît Chassaing.  Gut, 16 January 2023 - DOI : 10.1136/gutjnl-2021-326835

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Benoit Chassaing

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