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The right balance of intestinal bacteria is important to good health, and that balance in influenced by what we eat. Adding to a variety of available probiotic foods and supplements, in a new study, researchers found that probiotic colonies of beneficial bifidobacteria and lactobacilli increased in people taking a powdered drink made from wild blueberries.
Beneficial intestinal bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria digest fibers and sugars that make their way to the large intestine. This digestive action may improve colon health and possibly help prevent colon cancer. In addition, friendly bacteria may improve mineral absorption, immune function, and help prevent the growth of harmful micro-organisms in the gut.
The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, was a crossover trial: half of the 20 men in the study were assigned to receive a test drink for the first six-week phase and placebo for the second six-week phase, while the other half received the opposite. The test drink was made with 25 grams of wild blueberry powder and water, and the placebo drink contained 14.5 grams of sugars (fructose and glucose), blueberry flavor, artificial colors, and citric acid.
Researchers examined cultures of stool samples taken at the beginning and end of each phase. These showed:
“The results of our study suggest that regular consumption of a wild blueberry drink can shift the composition of the intestinal microbiota, increasing in particular bifidobacteria, a group of commensal intestinal microorganisms demonstrated to benefit human health. Ongoing experiments are demonstrating that bioactive components of wild blueberry, such as dietary fibers and polyphenols, are responsible for the selective stimulation of the growth of these health-promoting bacteria, said study co-authors Dr. Patrizia Riso and Dr. Simone Gugliemetti at the University of Milan, Italy.
Our dietary habits have a profound influence on the make-up of our gut bacteria. Here are some things you can do to help the healthiest bacteria thrive:
(J Agric Food Chem 2011;dx.doi.org/10.1021/jf2028686)