Diabetes Drugs Can Alter Intestinal Bacteria

In recent research, the composition and function of intestinal bacteria has been linked to various problematic health conditions, like diabetes, obesity and even celiac disease.

A new study sheds more light on the topic, suggesting that intestinal bacteria may indeed be altered by antidiabetic drugs like metformin - a factor that has not been taken into account before.

The research, from the University of Copenhagen, included data on 784 Danish, Swedish and Chinese patients - some of whom had type 2 diabetes and some of whom did not.

The study aimed to determined how changes in gut bacteria were linked to different types of medication.

Metformin causes favorable changes

Results showed that metformin, which is often used to treat high blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, actually caused "favorable" changes in gut microbiota. The medication enabled the bacteria to produce more of a specific type of short-chain fatty acid that helps to lower blood glucose levels.

Senior study author Oluf Borbye Pedersen, from the University of Copenhagen, elaborated:

We weren't able to show that other types of antidiabetic drugs had any actual impact on the gut microbiota. When studying type 2 diabetes patients not being treated with metformin, we did, however, discover that they – irrespective of whether they were from Denmark, China or Sweden – had fewer of the bacteria which produce the health-promoting short-chain fatty acids. Whether the lack of certain combinations of fatty acid producing intestinal bacterial species is one of the factors contributing to type 2 diabetes is currently being investigated.

The findings also corroborate the fact that metformin is linked to adverse gastointestinal problems, like bloating, as the patients in the study taking the drug had more symptom-producing coliform bacteria in their intestines.

The study is published in the journal Nature.

Source: University of Copenhagen

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