Science - December 10, 2015

Gut bacterium purifies heated food

Rob Ramaker

Wageningen microbiologists have discovered an intestinal bacterium which breaks down the potentially harmful substance fructoselysine in heated food while producing health-promoting butyrate.

Photo: Moyan Brenn

Such insights into the life of our intestines can help us tackle diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and diabetes type 2 in future. The results were published in Nature Communications on 2 December.

In order to gain a better understanding of our gut flora, PhD candidate Nam Bui of the Microbiology chair group looked for bacteria that produce butyrate. This substance is food for colonocytes, the cells in the colon wall, so they have a positive impact. She succeeded in isolating a bacterium – Intestinimonas butyriproducens AF211 – in the lab. The microbe turned out not only to produce butyrate but also to be able to survive on fructoselysine as its only food.

Fructoselysine is created out of protein and sugar in our food when it is heated during cooking. The substance is an interim product from which Advanced Glycolysation Endproducts (AGEs) can be formed. AGEs are linked with various diseases, including cardiovascular diseases. ‘This study suggests that the danger of this may be less straightforward than was thought,’ says Plugge. Apparently our gut flora can render these substances harmless.