Fibrous foods may help restore blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetics, study finds

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09 Mar 2018 --- Eating a diet high in fiber may aid the treatment of type 2 diabetes, a new study has found. The study provides evidence that a high dietary fiber intake could balance the ecosystem of bacteria in the gut. This may result in blood glucose control, weight loss and healthier lipid levels. The study supports the idea that establishing a healthy gut microbiota could act as a new nutritional approach for preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.

“Our study lays the foundation and opens the possibility that fibers targeting this group of gut bacteria could eventually become a major part of diet and treatment,” says Liping Zhao, the study's lead author and a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

In the study, based in China, Zhao (et al.) randomized patients with type 2 diabetes into two groups. The control group received a standard patient education and dietary recommendation, while the treatment group was given a diet high in various fibers. Both groups took the drug “acarbose” to help control blood glucose.

The treatment groups high-fiber diet included whole grains and traditional fibrous Chinese medicinal foods rich in prebiotics. These also promote the growth of short-chain, fatty acid-producing, gut bacteria. 

After 12 weeks, patients on the high-fiber diet had a greater reduction in a three-month average of blood glucose levels. Their fasting blood glucose levels also dropped faster and they lost more weight.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common debilitating diseases. It develops when the pancreas makes too little insulin – a hormone that helps glucose enter cells for use as energy – or the body doesn't use insulin well.

A shortage of short-chain fatty acids has been associated with type 2 diabetes, as well as other diseases.

Importantly, in the gut, many bacteria break down carbohydrates, such as dietary fibers, and produce short-chain fatty acids that nourish our gut lining cells, reduce inflammation and help control appetite. 

Many clinical studies also show that increasing dietary fiber intake could alleviate type 2 diabetes, but the effects can vary due to the lack of understanding of the mechanisms, according to Zhao.

This study enforces the importance of personalized nutrition in the potential treatment of diseases. For example, enhancing the presence of gut bacteria which may help restore blood sugar levels. NutritionInsight has reported on a range of studies that have found links between a healthy gut and a healthy body, such as with obesity and hypertension

Digestive health has risen to the top of the nutraceutical industry’s agenda, according to a new survey conducted by the organizers of Vitafoods Europe. Experts have attributed the findings to growing consumer awareness of the importance of healthy gut microbiota and of the potential of probiotics. These topics will be highlighted with a series of talks and presentations at the event, which will be held 15 to 17 May in Geneva.  

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