A defensive line of tiny microbes may help an increasingly fat nation stave off diabetes. Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests that probiotics may prevent healthy people from developing the disease, even if they stuff themselves with a Western diet.
Eating probiotics has already been shown to reduce fasting blood glucose concentrations in type 2 diabetic patients, according to the BJN article. Whether they could also prevent diet-induced insulin resistance in healthy subjects remained a mystery.
To find out, scientists fed 17 healthy subjects either a probiotic (Lactobacillus casei Shirota) twice daily or a control for a month. For the first three weeks, subjects ate their normal diet. For the last week, they gorged on a high-fat (65 percent of energy), high-energy (50 percent increase in energy intake). Researchers tested the subjects’ insulin sensitivity before and after the “overfeeding.”
For the people in the control group, the high-fat overfeeding decreased insulin sensitivity by 27 percent. But insulin sensitivity didn’t change at all among the group who ate the probiotics before, even though they also gorged on high-fat and high-calorie meals.
“These results suggest that probiotic supplementation may be useful in the prevention of diet-induced metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes,” write the study’s authors in the abstract.
Furthermore, the results provide more insight into the impact the microscopic residents of our gut can have on the rest of our body. The authors write in the article: “These results provide further indirect evidence that compositional changes in the gut microbiota lead to the development of human metabolic disease and that probiotic supplementation could be useful in preventing insulin resistance induced by excessive consumption of high-fat foods (i.e. a Westernized diet).