Microbiologists from the National Food Institute at the University of Denmark fed rats on a diet that was rich in whole apples, apple juice, purée or pomace, or put them on a control diet. They then analysed the microbial content of the rats' digestive systems to see if eating apples had any impact on the numbers of presumed 'friendly' bacteria in the gut.
"Certain bacteria are believed to be beneficial for digestive health and may influence the risk for cancer. We faced a well-known problem though -- many types of bacteria cannot be easily cultured in the lab," said research leader Professor Tine Rask Licht. The team therefore used genetics instead of culture techniques to examine the microbiology of the intestines. 16S rRNA is a molecule that is only found in bacteria and its make up is unique to each species or strain. "By working out the sequences of 16S rRNA molecules in the rats' intestines and matching these to known bacterial profiles of 16S rRNA, we could determine which microorganisms were abundant in each group of rats," explained Licht.