Study looks at how low calorie diets and probiotics may help combat type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on May 12, 2016

Very low calorie diets and probiotics may both help prevent type 2 diabetes as they can improve insulin sensitivity, according to scientists undertaking a new study.

Preventing the progression from prediabetes to type2 diabetes is considered a health priority in many countries but lifestyle interventions have been difficult to implement in real world settings.

But Dr Rinki Murphy from the University of Auckland in New Zealand is undertaking a scientific trial to investigate further the effects of diet and probiotics.

low calorie diet

“The effects of certain strains of probiotics in the prevention of type2 diabetes are strongly encouraging with reduction in gestational diabetes, improvements in insulin sensitivity and weight loss seen with Lactobacillus supplements,” she said.

She explained that in the study researchers will test the effectiveness of a specific strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus (HN001) given at different doses to patients with prediabetes, in terms of lowering blood glucose, and the distribution of body fat, specifically within the liver and pancreas, assessed by MRI scans.

She also pointed out that the study will use people of different ethnicities in Auckland who have prediabetes to see how well the probiotic treatment may work. “We want to find out whether the intermittent fasting approach to prevent type2 diabetes is amplified by probiotic supplementation,” she added.

She also pointed out that around 10% of people with prediabetes develop type2 diabetes each year and are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and death even before the development of diabetes.

In New Zealand higher rates of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are found in Pacific, Indian and Maori individuals. “These groups are disproportionately affected by diabetes related complications including renal failure, amputations, heart disease, stroke and premature death,” said Murphy.

She explained that lifestyle changes to combat prediabetes are difficult to sustain and widespread strategies to support them are often too costly for health care systems to implement successfully.

“While certain prescription drugs such as metformin, acarbose and orlistat are effective, their side effects and costs make them unsuitable for widespread, long term clinical use in the prevention of type2 diabetes. Probiotics may offer an additional, safe, approach,” she explained.

She said that there is increasing evidence that gut microbiota may be important in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes by influencing energy extraction from the diet, hunger, inflammation and glucose metabolism.

“Probiotics may be able to shift gut microbiota and the resulting alteration in microbial fermentation products may produce favourable metabolic benefits. Once we have established whether the Lactobacillus probiotic supplement works to improve prediabetes and determined which dose is best, we hope to test this in a larger study,” Murphy added.

“That larger study will test whether combining probiotic supplementation with intermittent fasting produces even greater benefits than intermittent fasting alone. Overall reduced caloric intake through fasting on two out of seven days a week, such as in the 5:2 diet, may be more achievable and sustainable than continuous modest daily restriction,” she concluded.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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