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They analyzed bacterial genetic material in blood and tissue samples taken from 40 severely obese people during weight-loss surgery. Half of the patients had type 2 diabetes, while the other half showed insulin resistance but didn't have diabetes.
The Canadian researchers also found that the total number of bacteria varied from one tissue to another, and was highest in the liver and the greater omentum (a fatty tissue connecting the stomach and the transverse colon). These two areas play an important role in metabolic regulation.
"Our findings suggest that in people suffering from severe obesity, bacteria or fragments of bacteria are associated with the development of type 2 diabetes," said study author Andre Marette. He is a professor at Laval University and a researcher at the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute, both in Quebec City.
The bacterial genetic material detected in the tissues most likely comes from the intestine, according to the researchers.
"We know that the intestinal barrier is more permeable in obese patients," Marette said in a university news release. "Our hypothesis is that living bacteria and bacterial fragments cross this barrier and set off an inflammatory process that ultimately prevents insulin from doing its job, which is to regulate blood glucose levels by acting on metabolic tissues."
The findings were published recently in the journal Nature Metabolism.
"Our next objective is to determine if the bacteria found in the liver and fat deposits of people suffering from severe obesity are also present in those who are overweight or moderately obese," Marette said.
"And lastly, we want to find out if certain beneficial bacteria found in these tissues can be used to prevent the development of the disease. If so, they might lead us to a new family of probiotic bacteria or a source of bacteria-based treatments to help fight diabetes," he added.
-- Robert Preidt
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