Diabetes Begins with Bacteria

Those outside of functional medicine may ridicule the notion that our gut play such a central role in our health (and so did I at one time), but recent research makes that more and more difficult to ignore.  Researchers in a Swedish university looked closely at the gut bacteria of newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients searching for clues.  Many prior studies have associated the gut microbiome with various diseases, but few evaluated direct causation mechanisms.  These scientists discovered that the fecal samples of these diabetic patients contained higher levels of imidazole propionate, a bacterial by-product of the amino acid, histidine. 

What’s the big deal?… you might ask.  Well good research never stops at 1 step without evaluating further logical consequences.  They looked in these patient’s blood samples and found higher levels of this chemical in their blood.  It was being absorbed.  Having this information in hand, they next investigated whether this chemical might have any metabolic effects on sugar metabolism.  In fact it did affect a MAPK signaling pathway, producing insulin resistance.  Now there was both an association and a mechanism.

What is next?  Research should continue each direction in terms of a step earlier in causation so that prevention might result and a step downstream to find ways of treating what has already occurred.  If we can understand how the bacteria producing this chemical got there in the first place, maybe we can learn how to avoid it before diabetes ever occurs.  If we can understand how it lives there, maybe we can learn how to weed it out and restore gut health that leads to diabetes therapy.

Until that further research occurs, we can keep working with our patients at Sanctuary to cultivate a healthy gut microbiome.  Whether it is for the purpose of preventing diabetes, preventing autoimmune disease, or treating irritable bowel syndrome, we aim to help them live healthier more abundant lives through health guts.

Ara Koh, Antonio Molinaro, Marcus Ståhlman, Muhammad Tanweer Khan, Caroline Schmidt, Louise Mannerås-Holm, Hao Wu, Alba Carreras, Heeyoon Jeong, Louise E. Olofsson, Per-Olof Bergh, Victor Gerdes, Annick Hartstra, Maurits de Brauw, Rosie Perkins, Max Nieuwdorp, Göran Bergström, Fredrik Bäckhed. Microbially Produced Imidazole Propionate Impairs Insulin Signaling through mTORC1. Cell, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.09.055

Thanks to Science Daily

University of Gothenburg. “Gut microbiota products can favor diabetes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 October 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181026105602.htm>.

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