Tube-fed elderly patients are generally supplied with the same type of nutrition over long periods, resulting in an increased risk for micronutrient deficiencies. Dietary polyphenols promote immunity and have anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-oxidative properties. Carica papaya Linn. is rich in several polyphenols; however, these polyphenols are poorly absorbed from the digestive tract in their original polymerized form. Therefore, we determined the molecular components of a fermented Carica papaya Linn. preparation, as well as its effects on immunity and the composition of gut microbiota in tube-fed patients. Different doses of the fermented C. papaya L. preparation were administered to three groups of tube-fed patients for 30 days. Its effects on fecal microbiota composition and immunity were assessed by 16S rRNA gene sequencing and immune-marker analysis, respectively. The chemical composition of the fermented C. papaya L. preparation was analyzed by capillary electrophoresisand liquid chromatography- time of flight mass spectrometry. The fermented C. papaya L. preparation restored peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) cytolytic activity; however, no other biomarkers of immunity were observed. Treatment with the preparation (9 g/day) significantly reduced the abundance of Firmicutes in the fecal microbiota. In particular, treatment reduced Clostridium scindens and Eggerthella lenta in most patients receiving 9 g/day. Chemical analysis identified low-molecular-weight phenolic acids as polyphenol metabolites; however, no polymerized, large-molecular-weight molecules were detected. Our study indicates that elderly patients who are tube-fed over the long-term have decreased PBMC cytolytic activity. In addition, low-molecular-weight polyphenol metabolites fermented from polymerized polyphenols restore PBMC cytolytic activity and modulate the composition of gut microbiota in tube-fed patients.
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