• An inflamed gut is an indicator of type 2 diabetes, new research found/ (AAP)Source: AAP
International scientists believe they can use information about the communities of bacteria in your gut to pre-empt whether or not you will go on to develop type 2 diabetes.
Yasmin Noone

18 Feb 2016 - 2:25 PM  UPDATED 18 Feb 2016 - 4:22 PM

The secret to detecting type 2 diabetes (T2D) early could lie deep within your gut, with international scientists now saying it’s possible to pre-empt the onset of the disease by examining changes in the communities of bacteria within your gastrointestinal tract.

The world-first research, published in the journal Genome Medicine this week, reveals that an inflamed gut is an indicator of T2D as changes in the gut microbiota (a collection of microrganisms) are already present in the very early stages of the disease. 

The US and South Korean researchers now believe that gut bacteria can be used in future tests to predict if a person is on their way to developing T2D: a condition closely linked to obesity.

“The human gut microbiota plays an important role in health and disease and can be viewed as a mirror into the host physiology,” the study reads

“…These changes in the microbiome might be used for the early diagnosis of an inflamed gut and T2D prior to clinical onset of the disease and will help to advance toward microbial interventions.”

The research could also prompt further investigation to determine how gut bacteria can be manipulated to treat T2D and prevent the condition from ever occurring.

Diabetes Australia estimates that around 1.4 million Australians have T2D, accounting for 85 per cent of all diabetes cases nationwide.

The findings offer hope to millions of people around the world who will go on to develop T2D.

Diabetes Australia estimates that around 1.4 million Australians have T2D, accounting for 85 per cent of all diabetes cases nationwide.

According to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, T2D is generally underdiagnosed. Australia’s largest diabetes population study, which screened over 11,000 people, found that half of all the people who had diabetes had not been diagnosed before.

Yet, studies show an early diagnosis of T2D could help mitigate the effects of the disease, improve quality of life of a person and possibly improve the course of the condition later in life.

While imbalances in the gut microbiota have been linked with T2D, previous research only compared cases of those with established T2D to healthy individuals.

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The research from Broad Institute in the US and Seoul National University, South Korea, was a first in that it looked at 20 healthy Korean identical twins aged 30-48 years to identify non-genetic differences in gut microbiome.

“This study provides evidence of low-grade inflammation of the gut with increasing values of obesity and T2D-related biomarkers.

“Compositional and functional microbial signatures indicate the presence of sub-clinical inflammation in adults increasingly at risk of these conditions, even before they are reflected by clinical markers.”

T2D is the most common form of diabetes and is characterised by a reduced proportion of insulin and an inability of the body’s tissues to respond to the hormone.

There is currently no cure for the condition and requires lifelong management.

Diabetes Australia CEO, Professor Greg Johnson, welcomes the international research and says it serves “as a useful reminder that the gut is involved with the development of type 2 diabetes”.

This study provides evidence of low-grade inflammation of the gut with increasing values of obesity and T2D-related biomarkers.

“In recent years, we have seen the discovery of a range of gut hormones which are linked to insulin and glucose regulation, and the outcome of those discoveries has been the availability of new medications that are used in the treatment of diabetes.

“The link between diabetes and the gut may be about microbes, inflammation, gut hormones, and more.”

However, he believes this recent research adds little to the evidence-base about diabetes diagnosis and prevention because the sample size was so small.

“This research report is interesting but it should be understood that this is a very small study and has no current application to the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes,” Prof Johnson explains.

“There is much more we need to understand about the link between the gut ‘environment’ and type 2 diabetes.”

The study’s authors agree that further research is needed in larger twin cohorts to truly understand how the microbiome develops in diabetes and other health conditions. 

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