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Alteration of gut microflora profile could predict diabetes risk

Posted:  Friday, March 20, 2015

Diabetes has notoriously earned the moniker of ‘the silent killer’ because of its insidious nature. However, what if we can predict the risk of developing diabetes and in turn prevent this condition from occurring altogether? Researchers have found that gut microflora undergo some changes during the development of pre-diabetes and diabetes, thus helping predict and also potentially manage this condition effectively.

Numerous studies have found that changing gut microflora could affect an individual’s health in many ways and the composition of microflora differs in the type 2 diabetic compared to normal individuals. However, this research, to be presented at the Endocrine Society’s 97th annual meeting in San Diego, indicated that the changes occur much earlier during the pre-diabetes stage.

The study evaluated the microbial composition of 116 African American men with varying blood sugar and insulin levels for over a year. At the end of the year, gut microflora composition was evaluated through stool samples.

The subjects were divided in to 4 groups based on their glycaemia control (measured by the oral glucose tolerance test) between the start and the end of the study. These groups were:

• Stable normal

• Stable impaired

• Worsened

• Improved

The researchers found that men with normal blood sugar that remained stable for over a year had higher number of bacteria that are considered beneficial for metabolic health. Those who remained pre-diabetic for most part of the study had a lower count of healthy bacteria and a higher count of harmful ones.

Subjects from the ‘improved’ group showed higher numbers of Akkermansia, a strain of healthy bacteria, than the group that reported stable normal blood sugar.

Although these findings offer great promise, further large-scale studies are required to validate them. In this scenario, modulating the gut bacteria via ingestion of certain foods can positively affect the host by preventing the risk of diabetes.

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