‘Medicinal food’ diet counters onset of type 1 diabetes
Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute researchers have led an international study that found – for the first time – that a diet yielding high amounts of the short-chain fatty acids acetate and butyrate provided a beneficial effect on the immune system and protected against type 1 or juvenile diabetes.
Autoimmune type 1 diabetes occurs when immune cells called autoreactive T cells attack and destroy the cells that produce insulin – the hormone that regulates our blood sugar levels.
The specialised diet developed by CSIRO and refined by Monash University researchers uses resistant starches – found in many foods including fruit and vegetables – that resist digestion and pass 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 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 feeding mice that spontaneously develop type 1 (autoimmune) diabetes diets that release high levels of natural metabolites such as acetate or butyrate improved the integrity of the gut lining, reduced pro-inflammatory factors, and promoted immune tolerance,” Dr Mariño said.
“We found this had an enormous impact on the development of type 1 diabetes in diabetes prone mice”, she said.