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Could prebiotics or probiotics cure type 1 diabetes?

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By Jimmy Downs

Tuesday Jan 1, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in the journal Diabetes suggests that using probiotics or prebiotics to help correct abnormal gut microbiotia may help type 1 diabetes.

The study led by M.C. de Goffau from University Medical Center Groningen and University of Groningen in Groningen, the Netherlands and colleagues found patients with type 1 diabetes had an abnormal gut microbiome.

The researchers say it has already been well established that the intestinal microbiota participates in the regulation of autoimmune diabetes in animal models.  Type 1 diabetes is an inflammatory autoimmune disease of the pancreas.

In the current study, the researchers compared the fecal microbiota composition in 18 children with at least two diabetes associated autoantibodies with healthy children without autoantibody.

It was found that children with β-cell autoimmunity had a low abundance of lactic acid producing and butyric acid producing bacteria, compared with healthy children.
Specifically, children with type 1 diabetes were found to have few Bifidobacterium adolescentis and Bifidobacterium pseudocatenulatum, both of which are predominantly present in normal gut microbiota, and an increased load of bacteria in the Bacteroides genus.

The study suggests that a low abundance of bifidobacteria and butyrate-producing species and a high abundance of bacteria in Bacteroides genus may be associated with type 1 diabetes.  It is known that some bacteroides can produce toxins, which may or may not be associated with the etiology of type 1 diabetes.

The study also suggests that type 1 diabetes patients may be helped using a special diet with prebiotics and or probiotics to promote the growth of the bacteria that dominate a healthy gut microbiota and inhibit the growth of the bacteria that are supposedly not present in gut microbiota in abundance.

The dietary intervention has been studied earlier.  A study published in the Oct 2006 issue of Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences suggests that it is feasible to prevent type 1 diabetes in individuals at risk of type 1 diabetes using probiotics. 

Martin Ljungberg from  Linköping University in Linköping, Sweden and colleagues conducted the study and found probiotics can be used to prevent beta cell autoimmunity in children at genetic risk of type 1 diabetes.

In the PRODIA study, 200 subjects with genetic risk for type 1 diabetes used probiotics during the first 6 months of life and the prevalence of autoantibodies was close to expected levels at 6, 12, and 24 months of age.

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