Who can resist insulin, the sweetheart of a hormone tasked with keeping blood sugars steady?
Actually, hundreds of millions of us.
Insulin resistance tracks Type 2 diabetes, a disease now soaring to pandemic numbers. Resistance rises in many metabolic camps. Here are a few identified in insulin resistance:
- Cell membrane changes
- Reduced skeletal muscle glucose uptake
- Increased liver glucose
- Reduced insulin from pancreas
Microbes may be also part of the problem. In insulin resistance, a dysbiosis—imbalance of the gut microbial ecosystem—often exists. Whereas the disorder itself may lead to a microbial mess, it is also believed that the opposite may be true: dysbiosis may be a cause.
Finnish researchers Mikael Knip and Heli Siljander at Helsinki University Hospital discussed the evidence in a paper titled Microbe-based approaches for the treatment of diabetes.
Researchers in the United Kingdom took a different tact: Carl J. Hulston and colleagues looked to see if Probiotic supplementation prevents high-fat, overfeeding-induced, insulin resistance in humans, published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2015.
First, it is known that Type 2 diabetics have fewer Firmicutes and more Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria than normal sugar handlers. Also, insulin resistance can be wrought quickly in rats that have been overfed high-fat foods. Could the equivalent of a fast-food binge do the same to humans?
- 17 healthy young volunteers were split into probiotic (8 received probiotic drink 2x daily for 4 weeks) or control (9 received none)
- First 3 weeks= normal diet
- Fourth week: a high-fat (65% energy) high-energy (+50% kcal) diet
- Decreased insulin sensitivity by 27% in control group but no drop in probiotic group
- One happy result: “novel evidence that probiotics preserve glycaemic control and prevent insulin resistance during a dietary challenge consisting of severe lipid overload.”
Gut barrier function was most likely fortified, according to discussion in the paper. But the authors concede that “The main limitation of this study is that we cannot confirm whether the high-fat diet altered the composition of the gut microbiota, impaired gut-barrier function, or lead to an increase in systemic inflammation.”
How something works may be a mystery, as in many pharmaceutical drugs, and the universe itself for that matter. In any case, the finding that probiotics may help prevent insulin resistance in a global population bloated from unhealthy food is good news indeed.
So people, pop, eat or drink your probiotics. And while you are at it, try the low-fat versions.