A critical discovery that bacteria feed on an unusual sugar molecule found in leafy greens could provide an important insight into how “good” bacteria protect our gut and promote health. The findings, published in Nature Chemical Biology, suggest that leafy greens are essential for feeding good gut bacteria. Researchers from Melbourne and the UK identified a previously unknown enzyme used by bacteria, fungi, and other organisms to feed on the unusual but abundant sugar sulfoquinovose—SQ for short—found in green vegetables.
Dr Goddard-Borger, the lead scientist behind the research, said the discovery could be exploited to cultivate the growth of “good” gut bacteria. “Every time we eat leafy green vegetables we consume significant amounts of SQ sugars, which are used as an energy source by good gut bacteria,” he said. “Bacteria in the gut, such as crucial protective strains of E. coli, use SQ as a source of energy. E. coli provides a protective barrier that prevents growth and colonization by bad bacteria, because the good bugs are taking up all the habitable real estate.”
Leafy greens include vegetables like kale, spinach, and romaine lettuce. Find more information on individual greens here.
Source: Walter and Eilza Hall Institute