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Helpful gut bacteria to treat Type 2 diabetes

Project summary

The community of bacteria that lives in our gut is different in people with and without Type 2 diabetes. Dr Astrid Hauge-Evans will find out if a diet high in wholegrains could alter this bacteria in people with Type 2 diabetes, and in turn protect insulin-producing cells. This could help us find a new diet-based treatment to improve the health of people living with Type 2 diabetes.

Background to research

We have communities of millions of bacteria living inside us, particularly in our gut. This is known as our gut microbiota. It contains both friendly and hostile bacteria and getting the right balance between these is important for our overall health.

Imbalances in gut bacteria have been linked with different health conditions. Scientists have recently discovered that the gut microbiota is different in people with and without Type 2 diabetes. We know that many things can affect the type and number of bacteria in our gut, including our diet.

Research has shown that changing the make-up of the gut microbiota through diet can improve blood glucose control. Scientists think this is down to improvements in the way the body responds to insulin. But Dr Hauge-Evans wants to know if changes in the gut microbiota could also help people with Type 2 diabetes make more insulin, and if this could be brought about through a diet high in wholegrains.

Research aims

To find out if wholegrains can benefit the gut microbiota, Dr Hauge-Evans will explore which substances (called metabolites) the gut makes when it breaks down wholegrains.

She’ll then look at whether these substances have a positive impact on the community of gut bacteria, by making it more diverse. To do this researchers will compare faecal samples from mice with Type 2 diabetes fed diets with and without wholegrains.

Dr Hauge-Evans will then investigate if wholegrains can keep insulin-producing beta cells healthy. In the lab, she will expose beta cells to substances that the gut has made from wholegrains and see if this improves their survival and the amount of insulin they produce.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

People with Type 2 diabetes can’t make enough insulin because their beta cells stop working properly. This research will help us work out if eating more wholegrains could potentially help people with Type 2 diabetes make more insulin and improve their blood glucose control. 

In the future, this could provide a new diet-based way to treat or prevent Type 2 diabetes, helping to reduce the risk of serious complications and promote healthier living.

RD Lawrence Fellowships

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