New research is showing a positive link between cranberries and your digestive health with a focus on not PRObiotics but PREbiotics. While cranberries are already at the top of the health food list with an amazing load of antioxidants, low does of calories and links to urinary tract health, improved immune health, lowered blood pressure and more these new findings are making it an even more desired go to food source.
Many scientists are paying new attention to prebiotics, that is, molecules we eat but cannot digest, because some may promote the growth and health of beneficial microorganisms in our intestines, says nutritional microbiologist David Sela at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In a new study, he and colleagues report the first evidence that certain beneficial gut bacteria are able to grow when fed a carbohydrate found in cranberries and further, that they exhibit a special nontypical metabolism.
Findings could add value to future food products or lead to a new supplement based on the cranberry, of which Massachusetts is a major producer.
What we eat not only nourishes us but also feeds the beneficial bacteria, the microbiome, in our intestines, Sela points out, and food scientists are increasingly interested in these less obvious benefits of food. There are thought to be as many bacterial cells in our bodies as our own human cells, he points out, “so we’re basically eating for two. These gut bacteria are extremely significant to us, they really are very important. Our food makes a difference for us as well as the beneficial microbes that we carry around with us.”
Sela believes that there is stronger motivation for both researchers and consumers in studying prebiotics than probiotics. “With probiotics, we are taking extra doses of beneficial bacteria that may or may not help our gut health,” he explains. “But with prebiotics, we already know that we have the beneficial guys in our guts, so let’s feed them! Let’s give them more nutrients and things that they like.”
“Prebiotics and probiotics might interact with our own physiology to help balance the microbiome, and we already know that when things are not in balance you can get problems like inflammation. Underlying chronic inflammation can lead to or worsen many different medical conditions. That’s the health side of this kind of study of microbiology, food and health.”
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