The adult gut contains some 1.5 kilogrammes of bacteria. While a small percentage of these are considered to be potentially harmful, they are outweighed by a large number of “good bacteria”. Should this healthy balance in the gut flora or gut microbiota become destabilised, many processes in the body are similarly disrupted, with research showing that this affects the onset of diabetes. In several studies, scientists have demonstrated that in diabetics (type 1), bacterial strain diversity drops already months or years before the affliction emerges and that in some cases, the number of “good bacteria” is reduced by 25 percent.
Scientists examined some 8,000 new-borns to determine whether specific administration of healthy bacteria will prevent diabetes. All babies had a hereditary increased risk of type 1 diabetes. During the first days of life, one group received probiotics consisting of live microorganisms, e.g. lactic acid bacteria. In later years, these children were less often found to have developed so-called islet cell antibodies, which are considered to be precursors of type 1 diabetes.
There are also new studies concerning type 2 diabetes: The Harvard School of Public Health led three long-running studies with a total of almost 300,000 participants. During the studies, some 15,000 participants developed type 2 diabetes. With this type of diabetes, the patient’s pancreas either produces insufficient amounts of insulin, or the body cells fail to respond normally to the insulin available. The studies showed that consumption of lactic acid bacteria, e.g. in yogurt, lowered the risk of diabetes. Other dairy products such as milk or cheese did not have the same positive effects.
Additional research will be necessary to ultimately recommend a probiotic course to prevent diabetes. But it is already evident, again, that bacterial diversity affects our whole body and has an effect on prevalent serious diseases.