Biting into organic apples for better gut health

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applesBiting into organic apples for better gut health
An apple a day has long been said to keep the doctor away, but new research suggests that just might be especially true if the apple is organic. That’s because organic apples have a more diverse and balanced microbial community than conventional apples, making them potentially better contributors to gut health.

“Freshly harvested, organically managed apples harbor a significantly more diverse, more even and distinct bacterial community, compared to conventional ones,” says Gabriele Berg, of Graz University of Technology, Austria, senior author of the apple study, which appeared recently in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. “This variety and balance would be expected to limit overgrowth of any one species, and previous studies have reported a negative correlation between human pathogen abundance and microbiome diversity of fresh produce,” she continues.

In the study, researchers compared the bacteria in conventional apples with organic ones and found that although the organic apples had a more diverse microbial profile, both had a similar number of microbial inhabitants—roughly 100 million, the majority of which are in the seeds. But bacteria associated with health benefits were more prevalent in the organic apples while the conventional apples had some unhealthy microbial residents.

Escherichia-Shigella—a group of bacteria that includes known pathogens—was found in most of the conventional apple samples but none from organic apples,” Berg continues. “For beneficial Lactobacilli—of probiotic fame—the reverse was true.”

The microbial profile of organic apples may also be responsible for a taste benefit, according to the researcher. “Methylobacterium, known to enhance the biosynthesis of strawberry flavor compounds, was significantly more abundant in organic apples,” Berg adds.

The researcher offers a plug for the benefits of consuming fresh, uncooked produce. “The bacteria, fungi, and viruses in our food transiently colonize our gut,” says Berg. “Cooking kills most of these, so raw fruit and veg[gies] are particularly important sources of gut microbes.”

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