Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.
Why is this research important: The ‘western diet’ is a diet characterised by a higher intake of red meat, high fat, high sugar, fried and processed foods, alongside a lower intake of fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains and nuts. The western diet is recognised to be a major contributor to the incidence of type II diabetes mellitus, a disease in which the body loses its ability to effectively control blood sugar levels.
Research suggests that the bacteria population (microbiota) of the gut plays an important role in how the body processes food, and that disruption of this population can contribute to diabetes. However, it is not clear whether this the result of disruption of the microbiota as a whole, or whether specific types of bacteria can exert a significant influence by themselves.
What did the researchers do: In this study, researchers gave groups of mice either a normal diet, or the mouse equivalent to a western diet. Unsurprisingly, the mice fed a western diet developed insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, components of type II diabetes. Researchers then used a data-driven approach called ‘Transkingdom Network analysis’ to model interactions between gut microbes and the mouse body, and identify which specific types of bacteria contribute most to the observed changes.
Key takeaway(s) from this research: Analysis identified four bacteria that appear to play a key role in increasing or limiting the harmful effects of the western diet. Lactobacillus johnsonii and Lactobacillus gasseri were reported to improve glucose metabolism, while Romboutsia ilealis, and Ruminococcus gnavus were detrimental.
Mice fed a diet that contained the beneficial Lactobacilli showed improved blood sugar control. Further investigation suggested that these bacteria may have indirectly improved the function of mitochondria (the power plants of the cell) in the liver, allowing ‘bad lipids’ to be more effectively processed.
This suggests that changes in just a few groups of bacteria can have a significant impact, and brings us closer to an effective probiotic treatment for obesity and diabetes.