Cranberry Extract Boosts Good Bacteria in the Gut

Jenn Hoskins
7th March, 2024

Cranberry Extract Boosts Good Bacteria in the Gut

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Laval University study found cranberry extract boosts good gut bacteria in humans
  • The extract increased butyrate, a beneficial compound for gut health
  • Individual gut bacteria types influenced how much one benefited from cranberries
Cranberries have long been considered a natural remedy for various health issues, particularly urinary tract infections (UTIs). A recent study by researchers at Laval University has delved into another potential benefit of cranberries—their ability to influence the gut microbiota, the complex community of microorganisms living in our digestive system[1]. This area of research could have significant implications for gastrointestinal health and may even intersect with findings from earlier studies on UTIs and the role of dietary components in gut health. The Laval University study focused on a commercial cranberry extract, rich in (poly)phenols and oligosaccharides. (Poly)phenols are compounds found in plants that have antioxidant properties, meaning they can help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Oligosaccharides are a type of carbohydrate that can serve as food for beneficial gut bacteria. The researchers aimed to understand how these components of cranberry might contribute to a healthy gut microbiota in humans. Over the course of four days, 28 human participants consumed the cranberry extract. The results were promising; the extract induced a bifidogenic effect, which is a fancy way of saying it increased the population of Bifidobacteria, a type of good bacteria in the gut. Additionally, there was a rise in the abundance of butyrate-producing bacteria like Clostridium and Anaerobutyricum. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that serves as a primary energy source for the cells lining the colon and has anti-inflammatory properties[2]. This finding aligns with previous research that highlights the importance of butyrate for gut health and its protective role against diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer[2]. The study also noted changes in the participants' SCFA profiles, with a decrease in the acetate ratio and an increase in the butyrate ratio in both blood plasma and feces. This shift towards more butyrate could potentially be beneficial, as earlier studies have shown that butyrate plays a distinct role in health and disease, and its production is a marker of a healthy gut microbiome[3]. Interestingly, the researchers observed that individuals with a gut microbiota characterized by the presence of Prevotella—a type of bacteria—experienced an increase in Faecalibacterium, another beneficial bacterium, after taking the cranberry extract. This suggests that the impact of cranberry on the gut microbiota might vary from person to person, which could explain why some past clinical trials on cranberry's health benefits have shown mixed results. The study's findings offer a broader understanding of how cranberry can influence gut health beyond the well-known effect of cranberry products in preventing UTIs, especially in women with recurrent UTIs and children[4]. The ability of cranberry to increase the abundance of beneficial bacteria and butyrate levels in the gut may contribute to its preventive effects against UTIs, as a healthy gut microbiota is linked to improved overall health and immune function. While the Laval University study provides new insights, it also raises questions about the inter-individual variability in response to cranberry supplementation. The researchers' approach to stratify participants according to their microbiota alterations is a step towards personalized nutrition, where interventions can be tailored to an individual's specific gut microbiota composition. In conclusion, the Laval University study adds to the growing body of evidence that cranberry has multiple health benefits, potentially through the modulation of the gut microbiota and the production of beneficial SCFAs like butyrate. These findings underscore the complex interactions between diet, gut microbiota, and health, and pave the way for future research to optimize cranberry-based interventions for individual health benefits.



Main Study

1) Short term supplementation with cranberry extract modulates gut microbiota in human and displays a bifidogenic effect.

Published 6th March, 2024

Related Studies

2) Butyrate's role in human health and the current progress towards its clinical application to treat gastrointestinal disease.

3) Predicting butyrate- and propionate-forming bacteria of gut microbiota from sequencing data.

4) Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections.

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