University of Tartu research

Boosting people’s health with the Jerusalem artichoke

Viia Kõiv, Tanel Tenson and Elin Org are researchers at the University of Tartu. The trio has found a new way to improve the health of the immune and nervous system and support metabolism. The scientists developed chips from the Jerusalem artichoke at the university’s spin-off company, RootBioMe.

When looking for the best root crop, the researchers of RootBioMe found that when naturally eating the Jerusalem artichoke – a species of sunflower native to central North America, also called sunroot, sunchoke or earth apple – human digestive enzymes are not able to break inulin because the root vegetable contains a large amount of fibre and has rich microbial community.

Microbiologist Viia Kõiv, who has researched the bacteria in the vegetables and more specifically in root crops, found that the microbial diversity in the vegetable is higher in the ones that grow naturally, compared with the ones from the supermarkets. In addition, many of the bacteria growing in the roots, are also part of a healthy human gut. The more bacteria there are in the vegetables, the more they produce necessary substances that support our immune and nervous system, but also our metabolism.

The benefits of inulin in the Jerusalem artichoke chips have been shown by a study conducted with volunteers. The microbiome analysis using faecal samples showed that after the consumption of the artichoke products, the microbial community in the volunteer´s gut had changed. According to associate professor Elin Org, the results showed that the amount of bacteria that consume the inulin that improve the metabolism, increased. Org added that, surprisingly, the results appeared within just two weeks.


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