The Potential Link Between Gut Bacteria and Diabetes
Lately, more and more research has shown the striking effects of gut micro-biome composition on both physical and mental health. So, it's not surprising to read that a recent study is discovering the potential role of specific species of gut bacteria in both the progression and prevention of type 2 diabetes.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
The gut microbiome is a diverse population of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. It is composed of trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Most of these species are beneficial or neutral in their presence, but some can be harmful.
The Cedar-Sinai Study
An ongoing study at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is looking at two gut bacteria in particular – Coprococcus and Flavonifractor. Individuals with higher levels of Coprococcus in their micro-biome seem to have greater insulin sensitivity – a protective factor against diabetes. Higher levels of Flavonifractor, however, were associated with higher levels of insulin resistance – a risk factor for diabetes.
The Role of Butyrate
The effect of specific bacteria on insulin sensitivity may be due to the levels of butyrate that they produce. Butyrate is the by-product of gut microbiota breaking down fiber. Butyrate serves many beneficial functions in the body, including being the primary energy source for the cells in our gut. It is also known to have a protective effect against diabetes due to its role in metabolism.
Studies have shown that individuals with higher levels of butyrate in their gut generally had greater insulin sensitivity. Coprococcus and related bacteria produce butyrate, but interestingly, so does Flavonifractor. The relationship between Flavonifractor and insulin resistance is still something to be explored.
It's important to note that many other factors, such as diet, influence the composition of the gut microbiome. This is something the current study is looking into as well.
The study on microbiome and diabetes is still in progress, but its potential outcomes are significant. Once researchers discover the specific bacteria that prevent or treat diabetes, they can create probiotics containing those bacteria. No conclusions or recommendations can be made yet, but researchers say the gut bacteria and diabetes correlation should be understood in the next few years.