By Julita E. Baker, Ph.D.
A few weeks ago, I gave a talk about the Beauty of our Microbiome at the Lafayette Community Hall. A nice gentleman came up to me afterwards and said he had created a snack bar that has the nutritional profile I was just speaking about in my talk. He gave me a few samples of his Toasted Honey Almond Tandem Bars, and asked me to try them out to see what I thought.
The next day, my husband and I were traveling to Mount Shasta for a big hike with one of our friends, so this was going to be the perfect opportunity to try the bars.
We set off on our hike, climbing almost 4,000 feet in 4 miles, up to a total of 10,050 feet, and were absolutely spent. With large appetites, we felt like we could have eaten all of the bars we brought on the trip at once, but started out with a Tandem Bar. It was very filling, and very good!
After eating it, we were surprised that we didn’t want to grab for another bar! Taste-wise, you could definitely taste both the chia seeds, and the combination of honey and dates that I truly loved. It wasn't cloyingly sweet as many other bars are.
Because it's not overly sweet, not overly gooey, not overly rewarding on the brain (what's known in research as "hyperpalatable"), you couldn't imagine eating 5 of them. It satisfies you in one bar. And believe me, I was hungry! Palatability is a subject that has intrigued me since grad school and one that I think is crucial to pay attention to because palatability is frequently associated with overeating. And in order to maintain the most optimal health (healthspan), for as LONG as possible (lifespan), you need to eat moderately.
Now let's talk a bit about the nutritional aspects of Tandem Bars. We'll focus this post on the gut microbiome benefiting fiber components of this bar, as I think Tandem did a great job at incorporating these compounds. In the next few posts, we'll look at other aspects of Tandem. In future posts, we'll look at some of my other favorite products too. I'll analyze why I like their nutritional profile, taste, when they should be eaten, etc. If you have suggestions on foods/ bars/ drinks you'd like me to examine, please send me a note.
CASE STUDY OF TANDEM BARS
Here’s the breakdown of nutrients for a Tandem Bar:
Tandem was designed, and did a fantastic job at, having ingredients that promote great gut health. It has ingredients that have been scientifically shown to flourish a healthy gut microbiome improving diversity and health promoting strains).
Here are the ingredients:
Organic Dates, Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Almonds, Organic Honey, Organic Orange Juice, Non-GMO Chicory Root Flour, Organic Psyllium Husk, Organic Chia Seeds, Organic Canola Oil, Organic Cinnamon, Salt
Almost all of these ingredients have some microbiome/gut health research behind them. Let's take a deeper look and dissect what each of these are, and their health benefits:
- FIBER (SOLUBLE AND INSOLUBLE)
- RESISTANT STARCH
- Fiber in Tandem (Soluble and Insoluble)
Tandem is superbly high in fiber (40% of the Daily Value) with 6g soluble fiber and 5g insoluble fiber, coming from the oats, almonds, chicory root flour, psyllium husk, dates, and chia seeds.
Why is fiber important and how does it influence our gut microbes?
We all know fiber is good for us. However not many of us consume enough! According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, analyzed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans consume around 10-15 grams of fiber per day (1). We should be consuming a minimum of 25 g. (2), When we look a bit deeper at other cultures who are free from many of the Western diseases (cardiovascular disease for example), such as the modern-day hunter-gatherer cultures, they eat on the order of 150-200 grams (3,4). This lack of fiber in Western society is FAILING to flourish the right strains and a greater diversity of our gut microbes, because this is what they thrive on. The end products that these gut bacteria would typically generate, such as short chain fatty acids, are then lacking too. That leads to a plethora of problems (all western society afflictions such as autoimmune diseases, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, diabetes, heart disease, and so on).
What do these fibers do for us?
Indigestible fiber reaches the colon where it is broken down by our gut bacteria, producing short chain fatty acids (SCFA) as byproducts
When we eat a high fiber food such as Tandem, our own 17 gastrointestinal enzymes are not able to fully break down that long polysaccharide chain within the fiber. When this happens, the food continues down the line, past our small intestine, and the undigested mass is then welcomed in the colon by our gut microbes. Microbes LOOOOVE fiber! They start fermenting whatever we couldn't (containing several hundredfold more carbohydrate-degrading enzymes). Using these undigested polysaccharide chains as an optimal fuel source for fermentation, they produce byproducts such as short chain fatty acids (SCFA)- acetate, propionate, and butyrate, which are produced in the following quantities (14) (15):
These SCFA have many downstream effects on our health (10)(13):
- They activate receptors that are expressed in a wide variety of tissues (endocrine cells, immune cells, adipocytes) (11).
- They signal via the central nervous system and other receptors to modulate a range of physiological processes, including energy homeostasis, lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, and suppression of inflammatory signals.
- And one of those SCFA specifically - butyrate is a great fuel source for our colonic intestinal cells, has anti-inflammatory properties, modulates immune system response, and regulates intestinal barrier integrity (5).
As you can imagine, when our colonocytes do not have that fuel sources, things go wrong. As an example, Mahesh Desai and colleagues from Luxembourg Institute of Health showed that a fiber-deprived gut microbiota degrades the colonic mucus barrier and enhances pathogen susceptibility (9). In the study, researchers showed that bacterial species which typically consume our undigested dietary fiber, can also use substances within the intestinal mucus layer as an alternative energy source. A chronic degradation of our mucus lining compromises barrier integrity and enhances inflammation and pathogen entrance. Bacteria release endotoxins (6, 7) (Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)), and if hyper-activated, this may lead to autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, multiple
sclerosis, type 1 diabetes (8), and so on.
Is soluble fiber or insoluble fiber better for our gut microbes?
Tandem Bars are a great source of microbiota-flourishing prebiotic compounds, fiber, and resistant starch, with quality ingredients, overall. The high fiber, prebiotics, and resistant starch are all fantastic for our gut microbes and satiety to keep us full.
Both the soluble and insoluble fiber within Tandem Bars benefit our gut microbes. Most soluble fibers are fermented by our microbes pretty readily and produce tons of SCFAs (some data point to more than insoluble). Insoluble fiber is typically digested more slowly by our gut bacteria, and some is more weakly degraded, but has more of a fecal bulking effect (12). They both alter microbial strains similarly though.
And that's our first look at soluble and insoluble fiber in the Case Study examining Tandem Bars! Next time we'll go into the second of the microbiome-promoting components - Prebiotics. Stay tuned!Happy eating!
Dr. Julita Baker from Science of Food Choice
This post is sponsored by Tandem Natural Foods
(1) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. "Dietary Fiber: Usual Intakes from Food and Water, 2003-2006, Compared to Adequate Intakes" www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=22659. Accessed October 11, 2019.
(2) Dietary Fiber-FDA guidelines https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts linteractivenutritionfactslabel/dietary-fiber.html. Accessed October 11, 2019.
(3) Sonnenburg, Justin, Sonnenburg, Erica; 2016. "The Good Gut," Penguin Books.
(4) Schnorr, S. L., et al. "Gut microbiome of the Hadza Hunter-Gatherers." Nat Commun 5 (2014: 3654. Print.
(5) Liu, H., Wang, J., He, T., Becker, S., Zhang, G., Li, D., & Ma, X. (2018). Butyrate: A Double-Edged Sword for Health?. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 9(1), 21-29. doi:10.1093/advances/nmx009
(6) Patrice D. Cani, Rodrigo Bibiloni, Claude Knauf, Aurélie Waget, Audrey M. Neyrinck, Nathalie M. Delzenne, Rémy Burcelin (2008). Changes in Gut Microbiota Control Metabolic Endotoxemia-Induced Inflammation in High-Fat Diet-Induced Obesity and Diabetes in Mice. Diabetes Jun 2008, 57 (6) 1470-1481; DOI: 10.2337/db07-1403
(7) Swaroop Pendyala, Jeanne M. Walker, Peter R. Holt, (2012) A High-Fat Diet Is Associated With Endotoxemia That Originates from the Gut, Gastroenterology, Volume 142, Issue 5.
(8) Cani, P.D., Neyrinck, A.M., Fava, E. et al. Diabetologia (2007) 50: 2374. https://doi.org /10.1007/s00125-007-0791-0
(9) Mahesh S. Desai, Anna M. Seekatz, Nicole M. Koropatkin, Nobuhiko Kamada, Christina A. Hickey, Mathis Wolter, Nicholas A. Pudlo, Sho Kitamoto, Nicolas Terrapon, Arnaud Muller, Vincent B. Young, Bernard Henrissat, Paul Wilmes, Thaddeus S. Stappenbeck, Gabriel Núñez, Eric C. Martens, (2016). A Dietary Fiber-Deprived Gut Microbiota Degrades the Colonic Mucus Barrier and Enhances Pathogen Susceptibility. Cell. Volume 167, Issue 5.
(10) Jian Tan, Craig McKenzie, Maria Potamitis, Alison N. Thorburn, Charles R. Mackay, Laurence Macia (2014). Chapter Three - The Role of Short-Chain Fatty Acids in Health and Disease, Editor(s): Frederick W. Alt. Advances in Immunology. Academic Press, Volume 121.
(11) Douglas J. Morrison & Tom Preston (2016). Formation of short chain fatty acids by the gut microbiota and their impact on human metabolism, Gut Microbes, 7:3, 189-200, DOI: 10.1080/19490976.2015.1134082
(12) Kassem Makki, Edward C. Deehan, Jens Walter, Fredrik Bäckhed. (2018). The Impact of Dietary Fiber on Gut Microbiota in Host Health and Disease. Cell Host & Microbe, Volume 23, Issue 6.
(13) Rios-Covian David, Ruas-Madiedo Patricia, Margolles Abelardo, Gueimonde Miguel, de los Reyes-Gavilán Clara G., Salazar Nuria. 2016. Intestinal Short Chain Fatty Acids and their Link with Diet and Human Health. Frontiers in Microbiology. Volume 7
(14) Marialetizia Rastelli, Patrice D Cani, Claude Knauf, The Gut Microbiome Influences Host Endocrine Functions, Endocrine Reviews, Volume 40, Issue 5, October 2019, Pages 1271-1284, https://doi.org/10.1210/er. 2018-00280
(15) Valdes Ana M, Walter Jens, Segal Eran, Spector Tim D. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. BMJ 2018; 361 : 2179