Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Probiotics and Blood Sugar

We’re finding out more and more about how our gut bacteria influence our health. We already know the direct effect on immunity, weight, mood and other areas.
In the past, probiotics have been cited for their beneficial effects on blood sugar, but a newer proof-of-principle study from researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and published in the journal Diabetes, showed that the scientists were able to reduce blood glucose levels in diabetic rats using common bacteria found in the human gut.
Senior author of the study, John March, and colleagues from Cornell say that, with the results of this study, "they may be one step closer to a cure for the condition.” The team plans to test higher doses of the probiotic in diabetic rats to investigate whether it can completely reverse their diabetic condition. Additional plans include developing the probiotic into a pill humans can use, which, if successful, the researchers say the likelihood would be for diabetics to take the pill each morning to help manage their blood sugar.
The researchers created a common strain of “friendly” human gut bacteria named Lactobacilli—a probiotic strain which is already known to deliver a variety of health benefits ranging from digestive health to skin health—to secrete Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which is a hormone that releases insulin as a response to food.
Here’s how the study went: for a total of 90 days, each day the research team gave one group of diabetic rats the probiotic, monitoring effects on blood glucose levels and comparing the results with the diabetic rats which didn’t receive the probiotic.
Here are the astounding results: at the close of the 90 days, the rats receiving the probiotic had blood glucose levels up to 30 percent lower than those not receiving the probiotic. It had those amazing outcomes because the probiotic converted the rat’s upper intestinal epithelial cells to cells that acted a lot like pancreatic beta cells, according to the researchers. In healthy people, the pancreatic beta cells secrete insulin and regulate blood glucose levels.
March explains, “The amount of time to reduce glucose levels following a meal is the same as in a normal rat, and it is matched to the amount of glucose in the blood, just as it would be with a normal-functioning pancreas. It’s moving the center of glucose control from the pancreas to the upper intestine.”
This study’s finding could have far-reaching implications for millions of people, since more than 29 million Americans have diabetes, which is also the seventh-leading cause of death in our country. Another 86 million others have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be classified as Type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Without proper diet, losing weight and incorporating moderate physical activity, 15-to-30 percent of those with pre-diabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes within five years.
With diabetes, the pancreas is either not able to produce enough of the hormone insulin or the body’s cells do not effectively respond to insulin—or both. The outcome is that blood glucose levels are higher than normal, leading to hyperglycemia, or diabetes. Complications from diabetes are troubling and can include stroke, heart disease, nerve damage and more.
So, stay tuned. Probiotics may soon be part of the answer in the battle against diabetes.
- Extraordinary Health News