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Microbiome and Glucose Metabolism

Theresa Hardy, PhD, RN

Does The Gut Microbiome Play A Role In Regulating Blood Sugar?

According to the most recent estimates, the human intestine hosts 3.9 x 1013 bacteria. This means that the number of bacteria residing in our gut is roughly equal to the number of cells in our bodies! Just in case this failed to impress you, a recent catalog of the genes expressed by the human microbiome counted about 10 million bacterial genes, a number 500 times greater than the number of genes in the human genome.

The bacteria residing in our gut are not just “playing house”; they perform important metabolic functions, and the large number of bacteria highlights the incredible metabolic potential of the gut microbiome.

So why does this all matter? It matters because this large microbial community in our gut helps to regulate our metabolism.1

Onegevity has a team of scientists addressing the role of the gut microbiome in various aspects of metabolism. This article is especially interesting for those with a sweet tooth – glucose metabolism, or how your body processes the carbohydrates it consumes, and how it makes energy for immediate use or stores it for later energy demands. We can harness knowledge about the ways in which our gut influences our metabolism to work with our gut microbiome and not against it.

It doesn’t need to be stated that most Americans consume too much sugar, and the prevalence of chronic diseases associated with diets high in refined sugars and carbohydrates continues to climb.

Bacteria in the gut produce various metabolites involved in insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis --otherwise known as glucose balance. One category of metabolites, bile acids, plays an important role in glucose metabolism.

Bile Acids—How Do They Influence Glucose Metabolism

What are bile acids? Bile acids are sterols or fats, made from cholesterol in the liver, but stored until needed in your gallbladder. They get secreted into the intestine, where they play a crucial role in breaking down fats you consume from foods.

When you ingest a meal that contains dietary fats, bile is released from the gallbladder into the intestine. Here, they help to form small masses containing dietary lipids and lipid-soluble vitamins (like vitamins A, C, D, and E), thereby facilitating their absorption. About 95% of bile acids are re-absorbed, while the remaining 5% get excreted in the feces.2

While the role of bile acids in glucose metabolism isn’t completely understood, one hypothesis is they activate receptors in the pancreas, thereby influencing insulin transport and secretion. Some bile acids act as receptor agonists and increase the activity of insulin, and some act as receptor antagonists and decrease the activity. Activating these receptors contributes to improvements in insulin sensitivity, making your body better at metabolizing glucose.

The gut microbial composition can alter the type and amount of secondary bile acids, which has the potential to affect glucose metabolism.3

Short-Chain Fatty Acids And Glucose Metabolism

Another group of gut metabolites connected to glucose metabolism is short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). The human gut is unable to digest some types of carbohydrates present in our diet, like dietary fiber, which can be used as an energy source by specific gut bacteria. Certain gut bacteria can metabolize these nondigestible carbohydrates converting them into different molecules, such as SCFAs.1

There is an indisputable link between the consumption of nondigestible carbohydrates and glucose metabolism. Studies have demonstrated that changes in the microbiome induced by increasing the consumption of nondigestible carbohydrates (fibers) can be enough to improve the metabolic issues of patients with type 2 diabetes.1 And randomized controlled trials have shown that higher production of SCFAs correlates with lower diet-induced obesity, and with reduced insulin resistance.

What can you do with this information? One way is to make sure you are taking care of your gut health because if you do, your gut will be able to take care of you. If you’re battling issues with blood sugar, weight changes, intolerance to certain carbohydrates, or are wondering if the fiber you’re eating is benefitting you, consider a gut microbiome test by Onegevity.

Onegevity’s Gutbio Microbiome Test will provide you with an easy-to-read report with personalized recommendations for how you can take actionable steps towards improving your gut microbial composition, which is important for insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. Gutbio directly reports SCFAs.

The new Performbio by Onegevity reports SCFAs and Bile Acids for a more complete picture of how your gut impacts glucose metabolism and your energy levels.

While waiting for results, add more fiber to your diet. Some examples of dietary fibers are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. For a more detailed list, read The Mayo Clinic’s list.

And finally, making sure your gut has enough healthy bacteria in it will ensure adequate quantities of the gut metabolites necessary to maintain glucose homeostasis. One way to do that is by adding a probiotic supplement. Probiotics have been shown to effectively reduce fasting blood glucose and HbA1c in individuals with type 2 diabetes.4

1. Rastelli M, Cani PD, Knauf C. The Gut Microbiome Influences Host Endocrine Functions. Endocr Rev. 2019;40:1271-1284. doi:10.1210/er.2018-00280

2. Prawitt J, Caron S, Staels B. Bile acid metabolism and the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. Curr Diab Rep. 2011;11(3):160-166. doi:10.1007/s11892-011-0187-x

3. Utzschneider KM, Kratz M, Damman CJ, Hullarg M. Mechanisms Linking the Gut Microbiome and Glucose Metabolism. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2016;101(4):1445-1454.

4. Akbari V, Hendijani F. Effects of probiotic supplementation in patients with type 2 diabetes: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2016. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuw039