Common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) are enriched in non-digestible fermentable carbohydrates and phenolic compounds that can modulate the colonic microenvironment (microbiota and host epithelial barrier) to improve gut health. In a comprehensive assessment of the impact of two commonly consumed bean varieties (differing in levels and types of phenolic compounds) within the colonic microenvironment, C57Bl/6 mice were fed diets supplemented with 20% cooked navy bean (NB) or black bean (BB) flours or an isocaloric basal diet control (BD) for 3 weeks. NB and BB similarly altered the fecal microbiota community structure (16S rRNA sequencing) notably by increasing the abundance of carbohydrate fermenting bacteria such as Prevotella, S24-7 and Ruminococcus flavefaciens, which coincided with enhanced short chain fatty acid (SCFA) production (microbial-derived carbohydrate fermentation products) and colonic expression of the SCFA receptors GPR-41/-43/-109a. Both NB and BB enhanced multiple aspects of mucus and epithelial barrier integrity vs. BD including: (i) goblet cell number, crypt mucus content and mucin mRNA expression, (ii) anti-microbial defenses (Reg3γ), (iii) crypt length and epithelial cell proliferation, (iv) apical junctional complex components (occludin, JAM-A, ZO-1 and E-cadherin) mRNA expression and (v) reduced serum endotoxin concentrations. Interestingly, biomarkers of colon barrier integrity (crypt height, mucus content, cell proliferation and goblet cell number) were enhanced in BB vs. NB-fed mice, suggesting added benefits attributable to unique BB components (e.g., phenolics). Overall, NB and BB improved baseline colonic microenvironment function by altering the microbial community structure and activity and promoting colon barrier integrity and function; effects which may prove beneficial in attenuating gut-associated diseases.
Keywords: Colonic mucosal barrier integrity; Common beans; Endotoxin; Fecal microbiota; Short-chain fatty acids.
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