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Digestion discovery Healthy inflammation helps regulate blood sugar

Researchers are a step closer to understanding how food affects an inflammatory response from gut bacteria

(Keystone)

Researchers at Basel’s University Hospital have discovered an inflammatory agent in the gut that usually helps regulate blood sugar but can also lead to diabetes in overweight and unhealthy people.

The findings shed light on how food leads to interactions among sugars and nutrients in the body and how Type 2 diabetes can develop.

The newly discovered agent, which the researchers found in mice, is known as Interleukin-1beta and comes from immune cells that gather in the intestines during a meal. Interleukin-1beta then triggers a release of insulin from the pancreas, which helps digest sugars consumed in food. Through a short-term inflammatory effect, the newly discovered agent also makes sure that the immune system has enough sugar to remain active and take care of any unwanted bacteria ingested in food.

However, the researchers found that Interleukin-1beta can also have a negative effect in people who are overweight or who don’t consume enough nutrients. If enough nutrients are consumed, the immune system receives the sugars needed to react to unhealthy gut bacteria. However, without proper nutrients and in unhealthy individuals, the Interleukin-1beta agent’s activity can become chronic and lead to diabetes. 

The findings, published in the journal Nature Immunology, also shed light on why infections often crop up in malnourished individuals, since not enough nutrients exist to provide for Interleukin-1beta’s healthy inflammatory effect. 

According to the Basel-based research team, this is the first time that the effects of Interleukin-1beta on healthy blood sugar regulation has been studied in-depth.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/vdv

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