The best sugar for your gut health

Volume 13    |   Issue 30

In the past few years, there's been an explosion of information detailing how our gut bacteria affect so many aspects of our well-being. More and more research is shedding light on how integral these tiny organisms are to our health. And we're also discovering how to keep the little bugs happy. One such way is by eating lots of green, leafy vegetables.

While researchers knew that consuming green, leafy vegetables promoted the proliferation of healthy bacteria in the gut, until recently, they actually didn't know why. But new research from Melbourne and the UK is shedding light on the issue.

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Just like all other living creatures, bacteria have to eat. And it turns out that this type of vegetable produces the favorite food of a number of beneficial bacteria. Believe it or not, this favorite food is sugar. But it's not table sugar. It's a form of sugar called sulfoquinovose (SQ). The bacteria we want to encourage to grow in our guts use SQ as an energy source. As the good bacteria proliferate, not only do they help keep us healthy, they also crowd out the bad bacteria that could do us harm.

The researchers who made this discovery are hopeful that this information could eventually be used in developing a novel form of antibiotic. This would be significant, as drug makers continue to try to adapt to increasingly resistant bacteria. But don't wait on new drugs to feed your good bacteria. Eat your veggies.

I wish I could tell you that this discovery would mean that leafy green vegetables will suddenly begin tasting like candy to you. But that's how they taste to your beneficial gut bacteria. And those bacteria do a lot for your health. So try to thank them for their efforts regularly by enjoying a nice big salad. You'll give them the energy they need to keep working hard for you and to keep harmful bugs from moving in.

Yours for better health,


Gaetano Speciale, Yi Jin, Gideon J Davies, Spencer J Williams, Ethan D Goddard-Borger. YihQ is a sulfoquinovosidase that cleaves sulfoquinovosyl diacylglyceride sulfolipids. Nature Chemical Biology, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.2023.

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