Young children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes have different gut bacteria than healthy children, a new finding which could eventually lead to help discover the right balanced diet for treatment. Researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands published their research in the journal Diabetologia, the European Association’s journal for the study of diabetes.  

Every year, another 13,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, which happens when their pancreas stops producing or responding to insulin. With a sharp increase in the number of children 5 years old and younger diagnosed every year, research decided to compare 28 diabetic children’s fecal samples with 27 healthy age mates.  

"The results from both age groups suggest that non-diabetic children have a more balanced microbiota in which butyrate-producing species appear to hold a pivotal position,” authors wrote. “Although distinct differences have been found in each age category between the healthy and diabetic children, the main differences with regard to Clostridium clusters IV and XIVa appear to represent two sides of the same coin, as they together emphasize the importance of developing balanced bacterial cross-feeding complexes that have sufficient potential for butyrate formation."

The bacteria in your stomach and colon cause fermentation of carbohydrates and other foods, which release a gas. A gut with the ideal balance of bacteria will produce the right amount of butyrate out of the stomach’s fermentation process and lead to optimal gut function and food breakdown. Because the gut bacteria in children between 1 to 3 years old is still developing very rapidly, it means the body is adjusting its levels of butyrate and other bacteria.

"Dietary interventions aimed at achieving or maintaining optimal butyrate production levels might measurably reduce the risk of developing type 1 diabetes, especially in children with genetic risk for developing type 1 diabetes," the authors wrote.

Scientists believe that diabetics’ insulin malfunction is the cause of genes that lay dormant until something else, like a virus, triggers them awake, according to the Mayo Clinic. Children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes have to depend on daily insulin injections or insulin pumps to control their blood glucose levels. Without insulin, the sugar in blood known as glucose, builds up and raises sugar levels. After each meal, the pancreas is triggered to produce insulin, but without it, the sugar from food breaks down and causes many health problems if sugar levels aren’t lowered.

The authors noted that simple sugars, on the other hand, could cause an overabundance of harmful bacterium species,which can quickly use up sugars and push out other healthier bacterium species. This decrease will lead to the unhealthy balance researchers spotted in the young children, but hope to change with diet adjustments. They also found that eating too much protein and animal fat could have similar effects on suppressing butyrate production because they call on other bacteria necessary for digestion.

"We think a diet high in fruits and vegetables is best as these are rich in fiber/complex carbohydrates, which are important because butyrate-producing species are dependent upon them indirectly via cross-feeding relations with fiber degraders,” the study’s authors wrote. 

Researchers did not look into type 2 diabetes, because it is already medically proven to be caused by high-calorie diets and an excessive intake of sugars. The rates of diabetes have risen with the threatening obesity epidemic.  

 

Source: Harmsen HJM, Welling GW, Honkanen H, et al. Aberrant gut microbiota composition at the onset of type 1 diabetes in young children. Diabetologia. 2014.