Diabetes risk: Some gut bacteria protect against insulin resistance

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Alistipes indistinctus may help protect against type 2 diabetes by improving insulin resistance. Image credit: Westend61/Getty Images.

The first signs of a community of microbial cells — mostly bacteria — living primarily in our upper and lower intestines microbiome were discerned over a century ago.

The term “microbiome” was coined only in 2009 by Joshua Lederberg. We remain in the early days of our understanding of this complicated microbial terrain.

Now, a new study from researchers at the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences (IMS) in Japan reports the discovery of an order of gut bacteria that may help protect against type 2 diabetes and obesity by improving insulin resistance. The bacteria are Alistipes indistinctus.

The researchers also identified bacteria from the order Lachnospiraceae that are more commonly present in the stools of people with insulin resistance, versus those without insulin resistance. This suggests it may be a helpful biomarker of the condition.

The study appears in the journal Nature.

The authors feel that the major strength of their investigation is the cataloging of 2,800 annotated fecal metabolites combined with microbiome and host pathology.

Metabolites are small molecules that are the byproducts of cell metabolism, and can provide chemical clues as to the cells that produced them during metabolization.

This process allowed the researchers to identify metabolites related to insulin resistance, pinpoint associations between fecal carbohydrates and low-grade insulin resistance inflammation, and thus select candidates for validation in mouse experiments.

“There have been some studies showing the association of gut microbes with obesity or insulin resistance in humans,” noted Dr. Hiroshi Ohno, team leader at the RIKEN Center, and one of the study authors.

“For example, Alistipes has been shown to decrease in obese individuals. However, these studies failed to reveal the causal relationship between those microbes and obesity,” he told Medical News Today.

“By combining metabolome analysis and animal experiments, we proved the causal relationship and that oral administration of Alistipes can protect from insulin resistance,” he said.

Asked if his team had further plans for their 2,800 metabolites, Dr. Ohno responded: “We focused more on hydrophilic metabolites [metabolites that mix with water] in this study. We would like to investigate hydrophobic/lipidomic metabolites, which also include interesting metabolites associated with insulin resistance/sensitivity in our preliminary analysis, in the future.”

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