12 January - 20 June 2016

Probiotic supplementation prevents high-fat, overfeeding-induced insulin resistance

12 February 2015

Many people within the UK suffering obesity/type 2 diabetes will encounter insulin resistance, a human metabolic disease. While the underlying mechanism for developing insulin resistance remains unclear, one popular theory implies that long term exposure to high-fat foods, i.e. “western diet”, could inhibit insulin signalling, and prevent glucose uptake. 

Recently, emerging research would suggest that gut microbiota might be the key to understanding the development of metabolic disease.  Current rodent studies have shown that combining a high-fat diet with prebiotic supplementation reduced the effects of insulin resistance.  Researchers now believe that a high-fat diet could negatively impact the uptake of blood glucose, due to an imbalance of healthy gut microbiota.    

A recent study set out to examine this possibility.  A 4 week study was conducted using 17 human subjects.  The study hypothesised whether 4 weeks of supplementation with the probiotic Lactobacillus casei Shirota (LcS), present in Yakult, could prevent insulin resistance, and preserve glycaemic control in healthy subjects.   Participants in both the control and test group were required to maintain normal dietary behaviour for 3 weeks, after which they would be subjected to 7 days of overfeeding on a high-fat diet.  Those in the test group were required to consume 2 portions of Yakult a day throughout the study.
The main findings were that the control group exhibited a 27% decrease in insulin sensitivity, while those supplemented with LcS preserved glycaemic control and maintained existing insulin activity.   These results support the theory that negatively altering gut microbiota via short-term high-fat exposure could lead to the development of metabolic disease; reducing its function in the uptake of blood glucose.

While these preliminary results appear positive, a different 12 week study reported that LcS supplementation failed to improve insulin sensitivity.   Comparatively the subjects for this study were recruited from the clinical population, as opposed to healthy individuals.  

It is therefore hypothesised that regular consumption of LcS could be effective in the prevention of developing metabolic disease, rather than a treatment.

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