Scientists are hard at work researching the effects of probiotics and prebiotics on metabolic abnormalities such as those seen in people with diabetes and related conditions. A recent study published in the journal Diabetes highlights the effects of a Lactobacillus probiotic on blood sugar levels. The researchers engineered the Lactobacillus strain to secrete glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). Glucagon-like peptide-1 is normally produced in the small intestine and stimulates insulin release to lower blood glucose levels.
People with diabetes are either unable to produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin (insulin resistance) due to an overabundance of insulin produced in response to continually high blood sugar levels (type 2 diabetes).
In an animal model, the GLP-1–producing probiotic induced the conversion of intestinal lining cells so that they would produce insulin, much like beta cells found in the pancreas. “It’s moving the center of glucose control from the pancreas to the upper intestine,” noted John March, PhDlead researcher. The probiotic reduced blood sugar levels in diabetic rats by up to 30 percent.
This proof-of-concept study will need to be followed up with more study to determine dosage, and later in humans to determine efficacy, but it shows promise that we might soon be able to better control blood glucose levels by targeting the site of glucose absorption.
Some evidence in humans does exist, however. For example, a recent human study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet and also drank a probiotic fermented milk experienced less insulin resistance than those individuals who did not drink the probiotic milk.