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Changes in gut health diversity may be a warning of type 1 diabetes

Recently, we discussed how being “too clean” with antibacterial soaps, disinfectants and antibiotics may leave young people more vulnerable to type 1 diabetes.

Unlike type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes typically affects young people, but may also develop in adults. Once known as juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes occurs when the body stops producing insulin. This happens when the immune system has attacked the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.

Researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the European Union funded Diabimmune Study Group and Massachusetts General Hospital, identified another marker for type 1 diabetes: Decreases in gut microbial diversity, including species of gut bacteria that promote good health, among infants.

Their findings were published in Cell Host & Microbe.

Gut health and inflammation

Scientists analyzed the stool samples of 33 infants from birth to age 3 to find who was more genetically prone to type 1 diabetes.

The few children who developed type 1 diabetes experienced a 25 percent decrease in the number of distinct species of gut microbes a year prior to be diagnosed with the disease.

Additionally, the reduction of bacteria that regulate the children’s guts worsened overall gut health, while increasing the amount of harmful gut bacteria that caused inflammation.

Good gut health remains stable

An interesting aspect of this research stems from what scientists learned over the course of the study about young children whose microbiomes developed normally and did not have type 1 diabetes. The key factor here is stability.

For one, although the species of bacteria in the human gut vary greatly between people, generally the composition of individual microbiomes remains stable over the course of time. Despite this diversity, these species functioned very consistently in the human gut over time and in each person too.

“Whether the bacterial community is very small, as it is in early infancy, or if it’s larger as it is later in life, the community is always serving the same major functions regardless of its composition. No matter which species are present, they encode the same major metabolic pathways, indicating that they’re doing the same jobs,” Dr. Aleksandar Kostic, one of the authors of the study said in a press release.

Understanding which bacterial species are present and absent in the gut microbiomes of young children with type 1 diabetes may help scientists figure out how to slow down the progression of the disease, according to Dr. Ramnik Xavier, who led the study.

“The next progression,” Dr. Xavier said, “is to expand the pool of patients, particularly among Finnish folks who are predisposed to type 1 diabetes than other ethnicities, in order to determine if their environments and the hygiene hypothesis are real factors in the development of this disease.”

As mentioned before, one goal of the Diabimmune project is to identify preventative therapies via probiotics or vaccines, if bacteria can be treated. Certainly, a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Junior (for kids) with 10 billion colonies of four primary strains of good gut bacteria would be helpful in protecting the diversity of your child’s gut health.

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