The impact of gut microbiomes on health, specifically neurological conditions, has gained significant attention in recent times. One particular metabolite, butyrate, has emerged as a crucial element in promoting brain health through the gut-brain axis.

“Without an externally administered synthetically produced butyrate as a supplement, we are able to make the human body produce its own butyrate by balancing the gut microbiome, which is probably a first in the world,” said one of the researchers, Samuel JK Abraham, Faculty of Medicine, Yamanashi University, Japan.

However, it is important to note that different pathways of butyrate production can lead to varying effects, including some that are detrimental. Maternal butyrate supplementation has also shown detrimental effects on offspring.

Researchers have been studying pullulans, beta-glucans produced by the yeast-like fungus Aureobasidium pullulans, which are found to help multiply butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut. (Beta-glucans are a group of polysaccharides, or complex carbohydrates, that are found in the cell wall of fungi, bacteria, and plants. Pullulan is a linear polysaccharide composed primarily of glucose units.)

“Butyrate being the single most demarcating factor between the longest living and the shortest, we can produce it not by a synthetic supplement, or a naturally produced supplement, but rather by making the gut environment good. So that is the most natural way towards a healthy, enduring, long life,” says Abraham.

Biological response modifier beta-glucans (BRMGs) such as nichi glucan have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects in Covid-19 cases, anti-fibrotic effects in fatty liver disease, and improvements in behaviour and sleep patterns in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

To further investigate the effects of nichi glucan, a randomised clinical study was undertaken involving 18 people with ASD, with one group receiving only conventional treatment and the other receiving nichi glucan supplementation.

The results showed that, from an abundance, the presence of enterobacteriaceae (which causes life-threatening complications) decreased significantly in the group receiving nichi glucan, while it increased in the control group. Changes were also observed at the species level, with decreases in harmful bacteria and increases in beneficial bacteria.

“These findings suggest that AFO-202 beta 1,3-1,6 glucan, produced by Aureobasidium pullulans, not only balances the gut microbiome in children with ASD but also potentially plays a prophylactic role in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases,” the study showed.

The study also highlights the role of gut microbiota in health. Understanding the composition and function of gut microbiota in different populations and conditions can provide valuable insights for developing targeted interventions to improve health outcomes.

Live human study

A recent study titled ‘Gut microbiota differences in elderly individuals: A comparison between rural city Kyotango and urban city Kyoto’ explored the gut microbiota of older healthy individuals in two Japanese cities. The study revealed notable distinctions in the composition of gut microbes, highlighting the possible connection between gut microbiota and longevity.

The study, conducted by researchers from a Japanese university, involved 102 participants — 51 from Kyotango and 51 from Kyoto — matched by age and gender. Faecal samples were collected from each participant and analysed using 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing to determine the diversity, abundance, and function of their gut microbiota.