A recent study led by Harry Gilbert, professor of biochemistry at Newcastle University, Eric Martens of the University of Michigan's Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and Wade Abbott, research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, has identified the complex machinery that targets yeast carbohydrates.
The study was published in the journal Nature and explains how our stomach has a certain bacteria that help us digest yeast and other complex carbohydrates. The bacteria is also found in beer and breads and is responsible for the bubbles in beer. This study shows that certain microbes in our digestive tract have evolved over the years to become capable of breaking down complex carbohydrates. It is these complex carbs that make up the yeast cell wall.
The research has unraveled the mechanism by which B thetaiotaomicron has learned to feast upon difficult to break down complex carbohydrates called yeast mannans. Mannans, derived from the yeast cell wall, are a component in our diet from fermented foods including bread, beer, wine and soy sauce.
"One of the big surprises in this study was that B thetaiotaomicron is so specifically tuned to recognise the complex carbohydrates present in yeasts, such as those present in beer, wine and bread," said Martens.
"However, these bacteria turned out to be smarter than we thought: they recognise and degrade both groups of carbohydrates, but have entirely separate strategies to do so despite the substantial chemical similarity between the host and yeast carbohydrates," added Martens.
The new findings provide a better understanding of how our unique intestinal soup of bacteria - known as the microbiome - has the capacity to obtain nutrients from our highly varied diet. The results suggest that yeast has health benefits possibly by increasing the Bacteroides growth in the microbiome.
Experts believe that the discovery of this process could accelerate the development of prebiotic medicines to help people suffering from bowel problems and autoimmune diseases.