Prediabetes associated with bacterial shifts in the gut microbiome
Researchers from the University of Gothenburg have for the first time studied the gut microbiome of subjects with prediabetes. The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, reveals a person’s unique gut bacteria population could be used to predict their likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
The new study arose out of the observation that, while some research has previously investigated the link between the gut microbiome and diabetes, most of those studies consisted of comparing healthy individuals with those already diagnosed with the condition.
The problem, the researchers point out, is that it becomes difficult to know how significantly the disease, or its subsequent treatment, has influenced a person’s gut bacterial population. To overcome this problem, the researchers gathered a cohort of over 1,000 subjects with various signs of prediabetes.
Prediabetes encompasses a number of abnormal blood sugar readings from impaired fasting glucose to impaired glucose tolerance. However, these abnormal readings are not high enough to cause noticeable symptoms leading to a diabetes diagnosis.
The findings in this new study revealed distinct gut microbiome differences were detectable in those prediabetic subjects compared to a healthy control group. Those subjects with impaired fasting glucose showed the least microbiome differences, while impaired glucose tolerance was linked to greater bacterial changes.
The study also revealed prediabetic subjects, and those recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes but yet to begin any treatment, displayed lower levels of butyrate-producing gut bacteria. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid produced by a number of beneficial gut bacteria species. Prior research has revealed significantly low-level of butyrate-producing bacteria in the microbiomes of diabetic patients. This study suggests an association between increasing signs of diabetes and lower levels of butyrate-producing bacteria.
As with many studies of this kind, it is impossible to know the causal direction of this microbiome-diabetes relationship. Further research is needed to understand whether microbiome changes (potentially influenced by diet) are directly causing the subsequent metabolic problems, or whether the microbiome is simply responding to the metabolic disease.
Study leader Fredrik Bäckhed suggests it may be plausible in the future for a next-generation probiotic to treat, or potentially prevent, type 2 diabetes. He does note, however, these insights into the relationship between microbiome changes and the onset of the disease do offer new ways to identify those at high risk, and also illustrate how gut bacteria shifts occur in parallel with a person’s glycemic status.
“Our study shows clearly that the composition of the gut microbiota may have a great potential for helping us to understand the risks of developing type 2 diabetes, and therefore improve our chances of detecting, preventing and treating the disease,” says Bäckhed.
The new study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Source: University of Gothenburg