Study: an altered gut microbiota can predict diabetes

June 6, 2013

Intestinal bacteria may have a greater influence on us than was previously thought. In a study published in the journal Nature, Swedish researchers show that patients with type 2 diabetes have an altered gut microbiota. Their findings have led to a new model to identify patients at increased risk of developing diabetes.

The human body contains ten times more bacteria than human cells. Most of these bacteria comprise the normal gut microbiota. Our bodies thus contain a vast number of bacterial genes in addition to the genes in our own cells, which are collectively known as the metagenome.

Three Gothenburg, Sweden-based research groups compared the metagenome of 145 women with diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, and healthy controls, and showed that women with type 2 diabetes have an altered gut microbiota. Furthermore, healthy women have higher numbers of gut bacteria known to be producers of butyrate, a fatty acid that has previously been linked to beneficial health effects.

On the basis of these findings, the researchers developed a new model that can distinguish between patients with type 2 diabetes and healthy women by analysis of the metagenome. “By examining the patient's gut microbiota, we could predict which patients are at risk of developing diabetes,” says co-author Fredrik. Bäckhed, PhD. “If the composition of the gut microbiota promotes the onset of age-related diabetes, that would indicate new opportunities to prevent the disease.” Read the article preview.

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