Spruce_probiotic_web

Spruce up your intestines

Spruce trees probably only enter your conscious subliminally but this is the time of year when they will do it because they are the trees that offer the inspiration for the classic Christmas tree shape. It is not the yuletide spirit that motivates this story however, rather it is a new study showing that Spruce might have prebiotic qualities.

Norway Spruce is also known as European Spruce and is native to European regions from Norway to the Ural mountains of Russia and as far south as Greece. It is now planted widely around the world and is common in places as far flung as the United States and New Zealand. The trees grow up to 50 metres high (although one living tree in Bosnia-Herzegovina has been measured at 63 metres). The wood of the Spruce is of high quality and in shipbuilding typically provided the longest and best ship masts. Violin makers also valued Spruce wood highly as resonance wood for their instruments. Now it is also being shown to have some pretty musical effects on your intestines.

One of the key ingredients of Spruce that is deemed responsible for these prebiotic effects is a polysaccharide dubbed galactoglucomannan which comes from the wood. A prebiotic is a substance that will encourage the growth of good bacteria in your intestinal tract.

In the new study galactoglucomannan was fed to three human probiotic species Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis Bb12 (B. lactis Bb12), Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. The testing confirmed that all three species of bacteria consumed and thrived on the Spruce-sourced prebiotic. The amount of viable bacteria was almost 100 times higher in the samples exposed to galactoglucomannan than the control samples.

The researchers reported that these probiotic bacteria not only started to proliferate earlier and reached higher concentration, but they also remained viable for a longer period when there was galactoglucomannan added to them in culture. The bifido-boosting potential of galactoglucomannan was comparable to that achieved with established prebiotics like fructooligosaccharide (FOS).

So Spruce wood is an untapped natural resource for prebiotics. If you are excited by this news and feel the urge to do the right thing by your intestines there’s no need to book your Scandinavian holiday. Heading into the Norwegian wilds and nibbling on a few conifers will probably earn the ire of local conservationists and park rangers. It’s also highly likely that given this research enterprising manufacturers will already be at work and “Spruce in a pill” won’t be too far away.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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