WEDNESDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- There may be a link between H. pylori bacteria and type 2 diabetes in adults, according to a new study.
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In some people, an H. pylori infection of the stomach acquired in early childhood becomes persistent and can lead to ulcers in the stomach and small intestine. These bacteria have also been associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer.
In this study, researchers analyzed data from people who took part in two U.S. National Health and Nutrition Surveys and found that the presence of H. pylori bacteria was consistently associated with elevated levels of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), an indicator of blood glucose levels and diabetes.
This association was strongest in obese people, according to the study published March 14 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
H. pylori may affect the levels of two stomach hormones that help regulate blood glucose, New York University School of Medicine researchers Yu Chen and Dr. Martin Blaser said in a journal news release. They suggested that using antibiotics to eliminate H. pylori in some older obese patients could prove beneficial.
An expert not involved with the study said that while it did not show a cause-and-effect relationship between the bacterium and diabetes, the findings suggest certain possibilities.
"This associative data serves as a foundation for future research, possibly even to examine whether eradication of H. pylori may be beneficial from a glucose tolerance standpoint," said Dr. Minisha Sood, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Further research is needed to evaluate the health impact of H. pylori and the effects of eradicating it in people of different ages and weights, the researchers noted.
In an accompanying editorial, Dani Cohen, of Tel Aviv University in Israel, and colleagues said that if the study findings are confirmed, they "could have important clinical and public health implications."
Type 2 diabetes causes about 3.8 million adult deaths worldwide each year.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Minisha Sood, M.D., endocrinologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Journal of Infectious Diseases, news release, March 13, 2012