Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Beer makes your intestinal flora happy

I love beer. I also love my intestines. It is lovely when my two loves can come together. Let the love-in stop and let's get down to the science.
Those who read my blog know that I don't get out much. Needless to say I never miss an issue of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. This issue was stellar, lots of pretty pictures. Now this is a great title, "Prebiotic and other health-related effects of cereal-derived arabinoxylans, arabinoxylan-oligosaccharides, and xylooligosaccharides." Wow, the letter 'x' appeared three times. Must be important.

We all know grain is good for you. Whole grains reduces the risk of heart disease, reduces obesity, can prevent type 2 diabetes and reduces the risk of colon cancer. This latest article with all the x's details how beer is good for our bowels.

You might not find this pleasant, but our intestines are infected with bacteria. Don't worry they are very nice and actually work for us. They produce certain vitamins, keep away foreign/disease causing bacteria and keep our intestinal lining strong. They also play a role in strengthening our immune system. So if you want to be good to your intestinal flora (a.k.a. probiotics); drink good craft beer.

Grains are a good source of arabinoxylans (AX). These AXs are a major component of the fibre portion of grains. AX is unrefined and needs to be broken down into arabinoxylan-oligosaccharides (AXOS) in order to be used. This happens during the processing of grains into bread, pasta and beer. In fact beer is a particularly rich source of AXOS. So what does this AXOS stuff do and why is it good for my gut? AXOS acts and a prebiotic, which means it is the primary food source for the good bacterial in your digestive tract. The more prebiotics you take in the more probiotics you get. Trust me this is good; these good bacteria have been shown to reduce the amounts of bad bacterial in your gut. The most notable intestinal bad boys are E. Coli and Clostridum difficile.

Probiotics are also though to help reduce the risk of colon cancer. The reason for this in unclear. One idea is when probiotics are fed AXOS they produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA) like butyrate and propionate. These SCFA have been known to kill cancer cells in the gut. Another theory is that colon ammonia is a potential cancer causing agent. Ammonia in the colon is produced by the fermentation of dietary protein. Increased AXOS intake reduces the amount of ammonia that enters your body.

To make it even better, AXOS can reduce your blood levels of cholesterol. They also happen to be great antioxidants. Cheers to that! Perhaps the new drinking toast should not be 'Cheers' or 'Prost' but it should be 'AXOS'!

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