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Fibers extracted from Norwegian birch and spruce trees promote growth of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Bacteroides bacterial species.

January 24, 2019

2 Min Read
Study suggests prebiotic role of common tree fibers

Prebiotics are high-fiber compounds that nourish helpful bacterial species in the gut. A study published this week in mSphere suggests that the hemicellulose fibers extracted from ordinary trees can help bring balance to the gut microbiome.

Findings from lab tests showed that fibers extracted from Norwegian birch and spruce trees promoted the growth of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Bacteroides bacterial species, which, among other things, promote gut health by protecting against inflammation and colonization by pathogens, according to an announcement from the American Society for Microbiology, which publishes mSphere.

“We decided to use waste material from construction, but that wood is not real waste; it’s a resource of compounds with health-promoting properties,” said lead author Sabina Leanti La Rosa, a microbiologist at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Aas, Norway.

La Rosa worked with researchers at her home institution in Norway as well as at the University of Reading in the U.K. and the University of Michigan. She said her team began the project with the goal of identifying a plentiful source of prebiotics that was cheap to produce and environmentally friendly.

The researchers knew that some of the most common hemicellulose compounds found in wood have structural similarities to prebiotics found in cereal grains, which suggests that the wood may similarly confer microbiome benefits.

They tested hemicellulose compounds that had been extracted from spruce and birch woods using steam explosion, a process in which high-pressure steam is used to break down the structure of a tree into a fibrous solid. The researchers conducted culture experiments on those compounds with 43 different bacterial species, all commensal, and compared the results to control experiments using commercially available compounds sold as prebiotics.

In the majority of the experiments, the bacteria grew more in the presence of the wood-derived hemicellulose compounds than in the commercial compounds, La Rosa said, noting that, in some cases, the experimental compounds led to the growth of bacterial species that didn’t metabolize commercial compounds at all.

La Rosa added that more testing is needed -- next on animals -- to better understand how well these findings translate to a real-world setting.

Source: American Society for Microbiology, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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