Another way to tackle obesity besides lifestyle modifications?

by Sithandiwe Dlamini 

According to the South African Demographic and Health Survey 2016, 68% of women and 39% of men aged 15 and older were overweight or obese. According to the World Health Organisation 2016, 39% of adults aged 18 and over were overweight, while 13% were obese. This is significant as obesity contributes to diseases such as diabetes. It’s development is influenced by lifestyle (diet, physical inactivity), family history and genetic predisposition.

However, the gut microbiome is very likely to play an important role as the development of obesity-related disorders are strongly linked to the human gut microbiome. More specifically, the bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila has interested researchers. Why A. muciniphila? In rodents treated with this bacterium, there was a reduction in obesity and related disorders such as insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. However, its administration and effects had never been investigated in humans.

Recently, an exploratory, proof of concept study in the form of a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled pilot study was done in overweight/obese, insulin-resistant participants. This was for the supplementation of A. muciniphila in humans. The participants were randomised to either receive the placebo, live or pasteurized A. muciniphila for 3 months, while maintaining their normal diet and physical activity. Metabolic parameters such as insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance were measured.


As seen in the graphs above, live and pasteurized A. muciniphila significantly reduced insulin resistance by reducing the insulin resistance score while pasteurized A. muciniphila significantly improved the insulin sensitivity index.

The above study showed that supplementation with A. muciniphila improved insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance Improvement in these metabolic parameters was associated with the impact of supplementation on body weight, fat mass and hip circumference. The study shows that A. muciniphila can be administered to humans and is safe. It provides the foundation for further clinical research with larger sample sizes and more standardized and accurate ways of measurement. It has the potential use for future clinical interventions for obesity-related disorders in conjunction with lifestyle interventions. A patent has been registered for the use of A. muciniphila in treating metabolic conditions, proving its utility as a therapeutic


Plovier H, Everard A, Druart C, Depommier C, Van Hul M, Geurts L, et al. A purified membrane protein from Akkermansia muciniphila or the pasteurized bacterium improves metabolism in obese and diabetic mice. Nat Med. 2017;23(1):107–13.

Depommier C, Everard A, Druart C, Plovier H, Van Hul M, Vieira-Silva Set al. Supplementation with Akkermansia muciniphila in overweight and obese human volunteers: a proof-of-concept exploratory study. Nature Medicine.2019;25(7):1096-1103.

Cani P, Everard A, Belzer C, de Vos WM. Use of Akkermansia for treating metabolic disorders field. Belgium; PCT/EP2012/073011, 2014.

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