Consumption of salads and green vegetables such as spinach can have a positive impact on your gut flora – and hence on your health in general. In a joint study, scientists of the Universities of Konstanz and Vienna found that sulfoquinovose (sulfoglucose), the sulfosugar from green vegetables, promotes the growth of key microorganisms in the gut. These include the bacterial species Eubacterium rectale which is one of the most common gut microbes in healthy people.
The study has shown for the first time that specific bacteria in the gut produce hydrogen sulphide when they metabolise the sulfosugar contained in salad and green vegetables (including algae). Large amounts of hydrogen sulphide, triggered, among other things by a diet rich in meat or fat, are associated with chronic inflammations, intestinal cancer, and other diseases. At the low concentrations resulting from the digestion from vegetables and salad, however, it has an anti-inflammatory effect.
“The gut microbiome thus plays a major role in determining how nutrition affects our health”, says the University of Konstanz in its news report. For many bacteria, there was a lack of knowledge regarding what substances they feed on and how they process them. The current results made it possible to somewhat better understand the microbial metabolism, and enabled the exploration of other interactions between nutrition and gut microbiota (gut flora). These findings are crucial if we want to influence the gut microbiota positively, for instance using therapeutic diets.
Further research will now examine whether and how the intake of the plant-based sulfosugar sulfoglucose, e.g. as a dietary supplement, could have a health-promoting effect. It would also be possible to use sulfosugar as a kind of prebiotic to support the growth and prevalence of good bacteria such as E. rectale and in this way the development and nurturing of a healthy gut flora in general.
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