Could a Probiotic Pill Manage Diabetes?


When you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar level under control can be a daily challenge. You've got to be selective about the foods you eat, test your blood glucose level regularly, and manage other conditions that can be a side effect of disease. And even then, you may not be able to reverse the damage diabetes can cause like poor circulation, weight gain, heart disease, vision loss, kidney damage, not to mention the impact it can have on your quality of life.

Diabetes is manageable, but at present there is no cure. But what if there was? What if taking a single pill a day could keep your blood sugar levels in the normal range? It would have a dramatic impact on healthcare costs and longevity for the estimated 29 million people in the United States who currently have diabetes, and the 78 million people who have prediabetes.

Fortunately, a cure may be closer than you think. In fact, researchers at Cornell University are currently studying the effects of an engineered probiotic (a kind of bacteria commonly found in the stomach that helps control and prevent diarrhea and similar digestive problems) and its effect on blood sugar levels.

In a recent study, they gave the probiotic to a group of diabetic rats once a day for 90 days. After three months, they found that the probiotic treatment helped lower blood sugar levels by as much as 30 percent. The probiotic works by triggering a response in the upper-intestinal tract that produces a similar response to a healthy pancreas capable of releasing adequate insulin to control blood sugar levels. They also found that blood sugar levels didn't change in healthy rats that also received the probiotic treatment.

The treatment was so effective, Cornell researchers are now working on creating a version of the probiotic for diabetes that can be used by humans. When this drug gains approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it could be life-changing for the millions of people who have diabetes and those who are at risk for developing diabetes and related complications.

Until such a drug is available, following healthy lifestyle habits are a key ingredient to managing diabetes. Eat a healthy diet. (If you need some meal ideas, check out the Diabetic-Friendly Meals from the a la carte Menu.) Get at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you need to. Keep track of your blood sugar level, and follow your doctor's advice to manage your diabetes.