- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the body's immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
- A non-pharmaceutical approach using a specialized diet containing starches found in many fruits and vegetables, has a beneficial effect on the immune system and protects against type 1 diabetes.
- As the starch passes through to the colon or large bowel, it gets broken down by gut bacteria and produces acetate and butyrate which, provides complete protection against type 1 diabetes.
A diet that provides high amounts of the short-chain fatty acids acetate and butyrate has a beneficial effect on the immune system and offered protection against type 1 or juvenile diabetes.
The international study was led by a team of researchers from the Monash University's Biomedicine Discovery Institute, who developed the the specialized diet along with CSIRO.
‘Diet which encourages the gut bacteria to produce high levels of acetate or butyrate, improves the integrity of the gut lining, reduces pro-inflammatory factors and promotes immune tolerance, thus protecting against type 1 diabetes.’
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that occurs when immune cells called autoreactive T cells attack and destroy the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Insulin is the hormone that regulates the blood sugar levels.
The diet used starches, found in many foods including fruits and vegetables, that resist digestion. It then passes through to the colon or large bowel where they are broken down by microbiota (gut bacteria).
This process of fermentation produces acetate and butyrate which, when combined, provided complete protection against type 1 diabetes.
"The Western diet affects our gut microbiota and the production of these short-chain fatty acids," researcher Dr Eliana Mariño said.
"Our research found that eating a diet which encourages the gut bacteria that produce high levels of acetate or butyrate improves the integrity of the gut lining, which reduces pro-inflammatory factors and promote immune tolerance," Dr Mariño said.
"We found this had an enormous impact on the development of type 1 diabetes," she said.
The study highlighted how non-pharmaceutical approaches including special diets and gut bacteria could treat or prevent autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes.
"The findings illustrate the dawn of a new era in treating human disease with medicinal foods," Professor Charles Mackay, who initiated the study said.
"The materials we used are something you can digest that is comprised of natural products - resistant starches are a normal part of our diet. The diets we used are highly efficient at releasing beneficial metabolites. I would describe them as an extreme superfood," Mackay said.
The diet involves special food and a special process which would need to be managed by nutritionists, dietitians and clinicians.
Professor Mackay, Dr Mariño and collaborators around Australia are trying to investigate the effect of diet on obesity and other inflammatory diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, food allergies and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
This research was supported by JDRF, the Diabetes Australia Research Trust and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.
The paper titled, 'Gut microbial metabolites limit the frequency of autoimmune T cells and protect against type 1 diabetes', is published in Nature Immunology
- Charles Mackay et al. Gut microbial metabolites limit the frequency of autoimmune T cells and protect against type 1 diabetes. Nature Immunology; (2017)