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Sugar found in leafy greens promotes gut health

Posted:  Friday, January 01, 2016

Leafy greens are good for the gut! Now researchers from Melbourne and UK have unravelled another good reason for relishing the green vegetables. Their study found that leafy greens contain a sugar called sulfoquinovose (SQ), which promotes the growth of the good microbiota in gut.

The study, published recently in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, made a pathbreaking discovery about SQ and its role in fostering gut health. SQ is a sulphur-containing sugar abundantly

present in leafy green vegetables. The ‘good’ gut bacteria such as the protective strains of E. coli extract SQ sugars from the greens using the enzyme YihQ. They use these sugars as an energy source to support their growth. The bacterial “digestion” of SQ is accompanied by the release of sulphur.

The consumption of leafy green vegetables will facilitate the growth of good gut bacteria through SQ as their energy source. The good bacteria such as E. coli are crucial in maintaining digestive health and preventing bad bacteria from colonizing the gut. The researchers believe that the aforementioned findings could be utilised to foster the growth of good bacteria for a healthy gut.

The study also elucidated a pathway for the use of sulphur by living organisms. The release of sulphur from SQ by bacterial enzyme action was followed by its entry into the global 'sulphur cycle', to be reused by other bacteria. The researchers suggested that these important insights could be explored for the development of new antibiotics.

The researchers explained, "We think it will be possible to use these widespread enzymes to enable highly specific delivery of antibiotics to harmful forms of E. coli and other pathogens, such as Salmonella, responsible for food poisoning, while leaving the good gut bacteria untouched."

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