Diabetes causes about 1.5 million deaths worldwide according to the World Health Organization. And a host of other threats—amputations, kidney failure, heart disease, vision problems and depression—await those living with diabetes.
Most diabetics weren’t born with faulty blood sugar control. Nearly 90% have Type 2 diabetes or T2DM, a condition resulting from impaired insulin production and insulin resistance. Lifestyle factors—exercise and diet—can often improve blood glucose control for these patients.
Probiotics are also under investigation as helpers for optimum blood sugar control. Here’s why:
- Type 2 diabetics have different microbes: fewer Firmicutes and more Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria than controls.
- Insulin resistance and dysbiosis can be induced quickly in rats that have been overfed high-fat foods.
- One recent study revealed that probiotic supplementation preserved glycemic control in humans during a high-fat diet period.
- One 2017 meta-analysis reported both reduced blood glucose and insulin with probiotic supplementation.
Insulin resistance stems from various pathways but emerging evidence suggests that dysbiosis—imbalance of the gut microbial ecosystem— may lead to:
- Increased gut permeability
- Metabolic endotoxemia
- Systemic low-grade inflammation
Fortunately, a healthy microbiota may restore normal glycemic balance. One recent study found that transfer of intestinal microbiota from lean donors to individuals with metabolic syndrome increased insulin sensitivity.
The data on the use of probiotics to improve glycemic control is inconsistent. A 2015 meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials concluded that probiotics may have a modest effect on glycemic control, but that even small changes can be beneficial. Another meta-analysis done around the same time recorded significant drops in HbA1c (a biomarker which rises as blood sugar control worsens) but no differences in fasting blood glucose or insulin concentrations for those consuming probiotics.
Recent research showed positive results with probiotic supplements.
Researchers at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Hubei, China conducted a meta-analysis of trials reporting the effects of probiotic supplements in patients with type 2 diabetes. (T2DM).
Results appeared in Medicina Clinica online in April of 2017. Twelve RCTs involving 770 participants were utilized.
Probiotic supplementation (not defined in abstract) reduced two biomarkers in clinically significant amounts:
- Fasting blood glucose by -11.27mg/dL
- Serum insulin concentration by -2.36μU/mL
- Probiotic supplementation did NOT significantly reduce HbA1c, a biomarker showing blood sugar control over several preceding months
In conclusion, probiotics may reduce problems typical in diabetics: excess gut permeability, endotoxemia and inflammatory response. By enriching microbes, probiotics will be doing these patients a big favor.