If you’ve ever wondered why some folks end up with a type 2 diabetes while others don’t you’re not alone. It has long puzzled scientists too.
Take, for example, two people who have the same risk factors such as not exercising enough, being overweight, and having elevated blood sugars. Why does one end up with a diabetes diagnosis while the other one never does?
A new breakthrough study may have just revealed a big piece of the puzzle. And it turns out your earnest efforts to avoid diabetes could be putting you at a higher risk for getting it.
I’ve explained before how critical the care and feeding of your “gut microbiome” is. Billions of bacteria—both nice guys (probiotics) and not so nice guys—call your gut home.
When these gut bugs are in the proper balance, they help keep you healthy. But when there are too many of the ugly bugs or not enough of certain good bugs, you can be at a higher risk for certain illnesses and diseases.
And it turns out this includes type 2 diabetes.
The gut bug link to lowering type 2 diabetes risk
For the new study, researchers compared two groups of folks from the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study. Volunteers in the original Finnish study were considered high risk for type 2 diabetes. They were all overweight and had high blood sugar levels.
The volunteers were coached and encouraged to make the kinds of lifestyle changes that should reduce their risk for type 2 diabetes. And 52 percent of the participants did avoid developing the disease for 15 years.
In the new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, a group of the folks who remained diabetes-free was compared to a group who developed diabetes.1 An analysis of their diets and blood work revealed something stunning.
Those folks who hadn’t developed the disease had far higher levels of indolepropionic acid (IPA).
Your good gut bugs produce IPA, and the compound is important for two big reasons…
- It helps protect the insulin-producing beta cells in your pancreas.
- And it improves insulin sensitivity so the hormone can do its job more effectively.
In other words, IPA acts as a natural shield against type 2 diabetes.
Fiber-filled foods are your gut’s best friend
When the researchers took a closer look at the diets of the volunteers, something stood out.
The people with high IPA levels tended to eat far more fiber-filled foods. And more often than not, those fibrous foods were whole grains which your gut bugs adore.
That’s important because whole grains encourage the gut bug Clostridium sporogenes to break down the amino acid tryptophan into several compounds including diabetes-fighting indolepropionic acid.
Which means that a healthy, well-fed, gut microbiome is a critical piece of the diabetes prevention puzzle.
Tweaking your diet to dodge type 2 diabetes
If you’re trying to eat healthy and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, chances are you’ve cut way back on the carbohydrates in your diet. And that’s a good move when you slash the right ones.
But as I’ve explained before, there’s a big difference between junk carbs and healthy carbs.
Our good gut bugs thrive on fiber. And the only place you’ll find it is in foods that also contain carbohydrates. So the trick is to pick the right foods, so you get the fiber that helps keep your gut microbiome (and you) healthy, but that don’t overload you with far too many carbs.
So you’re going to want to eat plenty of high fiber, whole grain foods. And while you’re tweaking your diet to help shield yourself against type 2 diabetes, you can bump up the amount of tryptophan-rich foods too.
A great way to do both is start off your day with a spinach omelet and rye toast. Eggs and spinach are loaded with tryptophan. And the researchers found the folks who avoided type 2 diabetes ate a lot of whole-grain rye.
If you’re concerned about scrambling your eggs due to oxidation, switch to boiled or over easy instead. Or try other tryptophan-rich foods such as white beans, lentils, shellfish, mozzarella, chia seeds, and tuna. And folks avoiding rye can opt for other whole grains such as steel-cut oats.
And, of course, all the good old solid advice about avoiding added sugars and getting plenty of exercise still apply.
Build a barrier against diabetes starting today with these easy changes to your diet.
1. “Indolepropionic acid and novel lipid metabolites are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study,” Scientific Reports volume 7, Article number: 46337