Apples are a rich source of polyphenols and fiber. A major proportion of apple polyphenols escape absorption in the small intestine and together with non-digestible polysaccharides reach the colon, where they can serve as substrates for bacterial fermentation. Animal studies suggest a synergistic interaction between apple polyphenols and the soluble fiber pectin; however, the effects of whole apples on human gut microbiota are less extensively studied. Three commercial apple varieties-Renetta Canada, Golden Delicious and Pink Lady-were digested and fermented in vitro using a batch culture colonic model (pH 5.5-6.0, 37 °C) inoculated with feces from three healthy donors. Inulin and cellulose were used as a readily and a poorly fermentable plant fiber, respectively. Fecal microbiota composition was measured by 16S rRNA gene Illumina MiSeq sequencing (V3-V4 region) and Fluorescence in Situ Hybridization. Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and polyphenol microbial metabolites were determined. The three apple varieties significantly changed bacterial diversity, increased Actinobacteria relative abundance, acetate, propionate and total SCFAs (p < 0.05). Renetta Canada and Golden Delicious significantly decreased Bacteroidetes abundance and increased Proteobacteria proportion and bifidobacteria population (p < 0.05). Renetta Canada also increased Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, butyrate levels and polyphenol microbial metabolites (p < 0.05). Together, these data suggest that apples, particularly Renetta Canada, can induce substantial changes in microbiota composition and metabolic activity in vitro, which could be associated with potential benefits to human health. Human intervention studies are necessary to confirm these data and potential beneficial effects.
Keywords: Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH); Illumina 16S rRNA gene sequencing; apples; fiber; gut microbiota; in vitro batch culture fermentation; microbial metabolites; pectin; polyphenols; proanthocyanidins.