How intestinal bacteria protects against diabetes

This week I’ve written a lot about how diet affects disease risk. So let me wrap up the week with one more study that highlights a very specific link between diet and illness.

Researchers looked at the data on participants in the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study, which included 200 overweight people with impaired glucose tolerance. The researchers were trying to determine what specific metabolic markers affected people’s risk of progressing from weight and glucose tolerance problems to full-blown diabetes. And what they found, not surprisingly, ties straight back to diet.

The key, according to the researchers, was a metabolite called indolepropionic acid.

The people who had the highest blood concentrations of indolepropionic acid were less likely to have developed diabetes at either the 5-year or the 15-year follow-up. Indolepropionic acid is produced by intestinal bacteria — so this study reinforces the fact that having a balanced gut microbiome is essential to health. In particular, diabetes risk.

And this particular metabolite is boosted by a diet that’s rich in fiber. Yet another reason to load up on veggies.

In addition to eating more fiber, other lifestyle changes that increased protection included losing weight and exercising more. Which should be a surprise to no one.



Vanessa D. de Mello, Jussi Paananen, Jaana Lindström, Maria A. Lankinen, Lin Shi, Johanna Kuusisto, Jussi Pihlajamäki, Seppo Auriola, Marko Lehtonen, Olov Rolandsson, Ingvar A. Bergdahl, Elise Nordin, Pirjo Ilanne-Parikka, Sirkka Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi, Rikard Landberg, Johan G. Eriksson, Jaakko Tuomilehto, Kati Hanhineva, Matti Uusitupa. Indolepropionic acid and novel lipid metabolites are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 46337 DOI: 10.1038/srep46337