Probiotic lactobacilli: an innovative tool to correct the malabsorption syndrome of vegetarians?
Med Hypotheses. 2005;65(6):1132-5. Epub 2005 Aug 10. PMID: 16095846
Department of Internal Medicine, San Camillo Hospital, Circonvallazione Gianicolense, 00152 Rome, Italy. [email protected]
Vegetarians may have subtle nutritional deficiencies which have been related to the occurrence of an unrecognized malabsorption syndrome. The excess phytate content in cereals, nuts, legumes and oilseeds which represent the mainstay of their food intake, seems to play a central role in the pathogenesis of this malabsorption syndrome as an inverse relationship has been shown to link the phytate content of the diet with the intestinal absorption of trace minerals and proteins. We postulate that manipulating the endogenous digestive microflora of subjects on a vegetarian diet through administering probiotic lactic bacteria would represent an innovative tool to counteract the occurrence of the malabsorption syndrome dependent on the high phytate content of their diet. Even though there are no data about the composition of endogenous digestive microflora in subjects on a vegetarian diet, we expect that probiotic lactobacilli can interact with or affect distinct yet interrelated components within the intestinal milieu, such as epithelial cells, enteric flora, and/or mucosal immune cells. This would ultimately translate into the correction of the unregulated mechanisms implicated in the altered intestinal absorption of trace metals and proteins commonly seen in vegetarians. Clinical experience with probiotic therapy of patients with inflammatory bowel disease fully agrees with this view. One additional point of interest is that probiotic lactobacilli, and other species of the endogenous digestive microflora as well, are an important source of the enzyme phytase which catalyses the release of phosphate from phytate and hydrolyses the complexes formed by phytate and metal ions or other cations, rendering them more soluble ultimately improving and facilitating their intestinal absorption. The regular intake of probiotic preparation, may represent a cheap and safe tool in order to convert a diet with a low potential for bioavailability of trace minerals and proteins, such as the vegetarian diet, into a diet with a high bioavailability potential. The benefit of such an approach would not be restricted to vegetarians.