Akkermansia Muciniphila: The Benefits and Risks of the Next-Generation Probiotic

By Monazza Ahmad, B.Pharm, MSc

In the fascinating world of our microbiome, there is one bacterium that has been making waves, and that is Akkermansia muciniphila

Among the trillions of bacteria residing in our body (yes, that's 10 times more than our own cells!), this particular species has caught the attention of researchers and health enthusiasts alike. Discovered about 20 years ago, A. muciniphila has been continuously showing promising results in promoting healthier gut lining and overall wellbeing.1*

You might wonder, don't all good bacteria do that? What sets A. muciniphila apart? Let's explore the unique attributes of this remarkable bacterium and discover how you can increase its levels to unlock its outstanding health benefits.* 

Uncovering Akkermansia muciniphila and the secret to its success

A. muciniphila is quite a unique character on the stage of the bacterial world. It thrives in areas with limited oxygen supply, making it particularly adept at flourishing even in tissues that have less oxygen supply.2

A. muciniphila does not follow the same dietary rules as its bacterial counterparts. While many bacteria rely on fiber for growth, A. muciniphila doesn't need it to survive. It can thrive on its own, without the need for any additional nutrients to reproduce.

Originating from Greek, muciniphila translates to “mucin-loving.” And true to its name, this bacterium resides in the mucus lining of our intestines, where it finds its energy source—mucin. By feasting on mucin, it encourages our epithelial cells to produce even more of it. What's so special about mucin? Mucin is a molecule that lubricates the gut lining, playing a crucial role in strengthening the walls of our gut against allergens and debris.*

Unveiling the impact of A. muciniphila on the microbial community

Here is another interesting fact about Akkermansia muciniphila: It turns mucin into something incredibly beneficial for our gut health—short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyrate, which can be used as food by other friendly bacteria in our body. This quality makes A. muciniphila a “cross-feeder.” It makes up about 3-4% of the gut lining in healthy people, populating our gastrointestinal tract within the first year of life through breast milk but gradually decreasing as we age. Hence, it’s critical to give it lifelong care to maintain a thriving gut environment.3*

Unraveling the importance of Akkermansia in improving health

Research on the effects of A. muciniphila on human health is ongoing, but some studies have shown encouraging results, indicating that A. muciniphila may offer potential benefits for various aspects of health:

Excess weight: Overweight individuals are mostly found to have lower levels of A. muciniphila alongside other beneficial bacteria as compared to their lean counterparts. By increasing the thickness of the protective mucus layer in the intestines and enhancing gut barrier function, this microbe blocks bacteria and other substances from entering our bloodstream. The result? Our metabolic health gets a boost! From blood sugar and cholesterol to blood pressure and waist circumference, A. muciniphila helps keep them all in check.4,5*

Glucose regulation: Did you know that a thinner mucus layer is associated with health risks? This is why, if you have an adequate amount of A. muciniphila in your body, it will boost healthy gut mucus lining and improve glucose metabolism. By degrading the mucus layer in the intestines, A. municiphila can increase the production of SCFAs, which keeps the glucose regulated and produces energy in your body.6*

Therefore, supplementation with A. muciniphila can lead to reduced fat mass, improved insulin metabolism, and better blood sugar control—factors that are essential in tackling blood sugar health.7*

Cardiovascular health: There are several cardiovascular markers shown to improve with the presence of Akkermansia in the body. This bacterium works wonders helping to promote healthy arteries and healthy blood pressure. How does it support our hearts? By producing the superstar butyrate!8-13*

Understanding the difference between live vs. pasteurized forms

One more thing to consider is the live and pasteurized forms of Akkermansia. Although the difference in their effects is still inconclusive, most studies found the pasteurized form to be more effective than the live form.14,15*

Nurturing the growth of Akkermansia for optimal health

There are many ways to naturally enhance the production of this beneficial bacteria in your body.

Foods that help16,17

  • Dietary fiber: Adopt a diet rich in fiber from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, such as a Mediterranean diet, that encourages the growth of A. muciniphila.*
  • Prebiotics: Incorporate prebiotic-rich foods into your diet. Prebiotics are nondigestible fibers that support the growth and activity of beneficial gut bacteria.* Foods like onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, yacon root, and bananas are good sources of prebiotics.
  • Polyphenol-rich foods: Foods rich in polyphenols, such as berries (especially cranberries), cocoa, green tea, and red wine (in moderation), may have a positive impact on your gut health and promote the growth of A. muciniphila.*
  • Probiotics and fermented foods: While A. muciniphila itself is not commonly available as a probiotic supplement, consuming other probiotics and fermented foods (e.g., yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi) may help create a gut environment that supports A. muciniphila growth.*
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc. as well as flaxseeds and chia seeds are a good source of fish oils to boost Akkermansia production.*

Lifestyle that helps6,16

  • Avoid high-fat diets and alcohol: High-fat diets, especially those rich in unhealthy fats, as well as alcohol may negatively impact the gut microbiome. Strive for a balanced diet with healthy fats, stay away from fast food, and limit alcohol consumption.16
  • Regular exercise: Regular physical activity has been associated with a more diverse and beneficial gut microbiome, which may also promote the growth of A. muciniphila.18
  • Stress management: Chronic stress can negatively affect gut health. Engaging in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature may be beneficial.19

Remember that individual responses to dietary and lifestyle changes can vary, and it's important to make these adjustments as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. So don’t forget to consult with your healthcare provider before making significant changes to your diet or lifestyle!

Navigating the caveats: potential risks of overabundance of Akkermansia

Just like anything out of balance in life, the overabundance of this bacteria may bring some risks as well. For example, excess Akkermansia in the body may upset the intestinal barrier due to overconsumption of mucin that makes up the epithelial lining to prevent the passage of bacteria.20*

There are other emerging studies on the possible association of the abundance of A. muciniphila with certain health parameters. Whether it’s detrimental or supportive is yet to be concluded.21-24

Remember, moderation is the key! Just like any other supplements, make sure to avoid overconsumption and always consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting supplementation. 


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Monazza Ahmad, B.Pharm, MSc
Monazza Ahmad obtained her Bachelor of Pharmacy from University of Karachi, Pakistan, and MSc in Health Communication from Boston University. She has experience working at community pharmacies, nonprofit health organizations, and nutrition companies dealing with both patients and practitioners. She supports improving public health literacy to achieve best health outcomes for which she initiated a Community Health Education program at a local community center in Southern California. She is currently working in internal sales at Metagenics providing product education to practitioners. She is also a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a member of American Medical Writers Association (AMWA).

She loves cooking and is always looking for healthy recipes. She also enjoys singing, hiking, reading a good book, and traveling with her husband and kids.

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