Although diabetes has affected humans for thousands of years, we are still learning more about how the disease occurs and progresses. Recent research has provided new insights into the manifestation of diabetes.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the Cedars Sinai Medical Center, individuals with higher amounts of Flavonifractor in their gut may be more prone to developing insulin resistance, a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

The study published in Diabetes, conducted by Dr. Mark Goodarzi, found that individuals with higher levels of the Coprococcus gut bacteria tend to have higher insulin sensitivity. 

However, the study raises the question of whether these microbiome differences cause diabetes or if diabetes causes these microbiome differences.

Dr. Mark Goodarzi, the author of the Microbiome and Insulin Longitudinal Evaluation Study (MILES), is determined to identify the specific bacteria that could potentially be targeted in order to prevent or treat diabetes. 

His research team has been collecting data since 2018 and is currently studying a cohort of 352 individuals without diabetes.

All of the research participants were recruited from the Wake Forest Baptist Health System in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and each provided three samples of their feces.

Genetic sequencing was used to look for bacteria that previous studies have linked to insulin resistance in the microbiomes of the participants.

Each participant additionally completed a food questionnaire and underwent an oral glucose tolerance test to assess their glucose tolerance.

The researchers discovered that 28 subjects had oral glucose levels that were high enough to qualify as diabetic.

Another 135 individuals met the criteria for pre-diabetes, which implies that their blood sugar levels were above average but not high enough to be considered diabetic.

The research team discovered that higher levels of Coprococcus gut bacteria were correlated with better insulin levels, while higher levels of Flavonifractor were linked to insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance occurs when your body’s cells do not respond adequately to the insulin produced by your body or to insulin medication. This can cause an increase in blood sugar levels because the insulin is not being used effectively by the body.

Insulin resistance has been linked to an excess of fat stored in and around the liver and pancreas. This excess internal fat is often a result of obesity, which is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Some of the signs of insulin resistance may include frequent urination, particularly at night, excessive thirst, fatigue, weight loss without trying, genital itching or thrush, slow wound healing, blurred vision, and increased hunger.

Overweight people may benefit from decreasing weight in order to enhance insulin sensitivity.

If you already have type 2 diabetes, losing weight may help you get it under control.

Regarding the research, researchers are still studying samples from individuals who took part in this trial to determine how insulin production and the makeup of the microbiome change over time. They also want to investigate the potential impact of diet on the microbiome’s bacterial balance.

However, Goodarzi stressed that it is too early to tell how individuals might adjust their microbiome to lower their diabetes risk.

Goodarzi, who holds the Eris M. Field Chair in Diabetes Research at Cedars-Sinai, commented: “We need more research to identify the specific bacteria that we need to be modulating to prevent or treat diabetes, but it’s coming, probably in the next five to 10 years.”

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