Probiotic Akkermansia strain may protect against cognitive dysfunction

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© nevarpp / Getty Images
© nevarpp / Getty Images

Related tags Akkermansia muciniphila Probiotics liver health

A specific strain of Akkermansia muciniphila may reverse the detrimental cognitive effects of a high-fat, high-cholesterol (HFHC) diet, including for measures of working memory and recognition, says a new study in rats.

Akkermansia muciniphila​ CIP107961 was also associated with a restoration in brain metabolism, reported researchers from the University of Oviedo and the Instituto De Productos Lácteos De Asturias (IPLA-CSIC) in Spain, and King’s College London in the UK.

On the other hand, supplements of Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus​ GG (LGG) did not have the same beneficial effects, according the data published in Gut Microbes.

“[T]he microbiota and cognition are intimately connected through the gut–brain axis, and in HFHC pathologies they can be influenced by environmental enrichment and ​A. muciniphila CIP107961 administration,” ​wrote the researchers.

“Cognitive improvement was accompanied by changes in brain metabolic activity and gut microbial composition analysis, pointing to specific microbiota targets for intervention in diet-induced pathologies. However, some mechanisms other than major changes in microbiota composition and the combined effect of environmental enrichment and ​A. muciniphila administration, which we identified in this study, may also be biologically relevant and will need to be investigated in future studies due to their relative contributions to the selection of effective treatments for patients.”


Akkermansia muciniphila​ has attracted growing interest for its health-promoting effects. In rodents, treatment with A. muciniphila​ reduces obesity and related disorders, such as glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and gut permeability.

The species Akkermansia muciniphila​ reportedly has an abundance of about 3% in the human colon​, and its abundance in the intestinal mucus layer is inversely correlated with BMI, type 1 diabetes, and bowel disease in humans. Akkermansia​ is known to produce nutrients that feed intestinal cells responsible for producing the intestinal mucus layer, helping to maintain healthy intestinal barrier function, control gut permeability, and control low grade inflammation in the gut.

Much of the research into the species has been conducted in Belgium at the Catholic University of Louvain, and a spin-off company called A-Mansia​ was launched several years ago focusing on commercial development of A. muciniphila​ products.

Study details

For the new study, the scientists divided 56 male rats into seven groups: Normal chow diet (NC); NC plus environmental enrichment (EE), which stimulates the brain by putting the animal in a stimulating environment; a high-fat, high cholesterol diet (HFHC); HFHC + EE; HFHC + PBS (phosphate-buffered saline); HFHC + LGG; and HFHC + A. muciniphila​ CIP107961. Measures of cognitive function included spatial working memory, which was measured using a Morris water maze, and novel object recognition, which was assessed using novel objects introduced into an open field and the animals monitored using video. 

After 14 weeks, the researchers found that the HFHC diet led to cognitive declines compared to the NC group, but that these declines were reversed through environmental enrichment and A.muciniphila​ administration.

In addition, Akkermansia consumption restored brain metabolism to be similar to that observed in the NC group. However, the HFHC diet combined with EE led to a decrease in brain metabolism, similar to what was observed in the HFHC-only group.

The researchers noted that the findings could have implications for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is caused by a high-fat, high cholesterol diet. NASH affects between 1.5% and 6.5% of US adults, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

“Our findings illustrate the interplay between gut microbiota, the host’s brain energy metabolism, and cognition,”​ wrote the researchers. “In addition, the findings suggest intervention strategies, such as the administration of ​A. muciniphila, for the management of the cognitive dysfunction related to NASH.”

Source: Gut Microbes
13​:1, 1880240, doi: 10.1080/19490976.2021.1880240
“Akkermansia muciniphila and environmental enrichment reverse cognitive impairment associated with high-fat high-cholesterol consumption in rats”
Authors: S.G. Higarza et al.

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