In a recent study, researchers found that the gut microbiota has the ability to affect how cells respond to insulin, and can thus contribute to type 2 diabetes.
During recent years, the gut microbiota has been linked to health and several disease conditions.
However, only a few studies have examined whether an altered gut microbiota can directly affect disease.
Scientists at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, found that the gut microbiota of people with treatment-naïve type 2 diabetes can be linked to a different metabolism of the amino acid histidine, which is mainly derived from the diet.
This, in turn, leads to the formation of imidazole propionate, a substance that impairs the cells’ ability to respond to insulin.
Reducing the amount of bacterial-produced imidazole propionate could, therefore, be a new way of treating patients with type 2 diabetes.
Although this substance does not cause all type 2 diabetes, the research hypothesis is that there are subpopulations of patients who might benefit from changing their diet.
Altering their gut microbiota may help reduce the levels of imidazole propionate.
The new study included the analysis of various substances in the blood vessel that goes from the intestine to the liver.
The researchers then identified an elevated concentration of the substance imidazole propionate in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Using fecal samples, it was also possible to show that the microbiota of people with type 2 diabetes produced imidazole propionate when histidine was added.
This mechanism was not found in people without diabetes.
The new study included 5 patients with type 2 diabetes and 10 diabetes-free control people. The findings were then confirmed in a larger study involving 649 people.
The scientists then examined the effect of imidazole propionate on sugar metabolism.
They found that the molecule affected a signaling pathway previously linked to metabolic-related diseases by directly activating a specific protein, p38gamma.
These findings help explain how gut bacteria are associated with, for example, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
They show clearly how important the interaction between gut microbiota and diet is to understand our metabolism in health and disease.
The study is published in the journal Cell.
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