‘Medicinal food’ counters onset of type 1 diabetes
Scientists at the Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Melbourne Australia, 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 Monash University researchers uses 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 complete protection against type 1 diabetes. The findings, which attracted considerable interest at the International Congress of Immunology in Melbourne last year, were published in the prestigious journal Nature Immunology.
Professor Charles Mackay, who initiated the research said the study highlighted how non-pharmaceutical approaches including special diets and gut bacteria could treat or prevent autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes. The findings illustrate the dawn of a new era in treating human disease with medicinal foods,” Mackay said. “The materials we used are something you can digest that is comprised of natural products – resistant starches are a normal part of our diet.
“The diets we used are highly efficient at releasing beneficial metabolites. I would describe them as an extreme superfood,” he said.Mackay said that the diet was not just about eating vegetables or high-fibre foods but involved special food and a special process, and would need to be managed by nutritionists, dietitians and clinicians.
Also, a new pill is being developed that could make your body think it has exercised. American researchers are trying to target two nuclear receptors that control muscle metabolism. This will turn on the genes that get activated during workouts, even if no exercise is being done, helping you to burn fat. If successful, the drug – meant to help those who are physically unable to go to the gym – could help battle both diabetes and the fast-growing obesity epidemic.
Dr. Thomas Burris and Dr. John Walker, from the department of pharmacology and physiology at Saint Louis University, in Missouri, United States, have received more than $4 million in a series of grants.
This will fund the study of two receptors that are linked to muscle metabolism: REV-ERB and ERR. In past studies conducted by Burris, a drug developed to target REV-ERB acted like an exercise mimic. And genetic studies with ERR suggest that it also may be a good target for the development of exercise-mimicking drugs.
Burris and Walker’s work combines chemistry and biology to develop new treatments that could offer new options for patients suffering from the burdens of these health threats.
Australian scientists have developed an exercise pill that tricks the body into responding as though it’s been to the gym. It sounds too good to be true but Deakin University researchers say it’s the real deal. The drug works by keeping certain genes – which allow for increased fat burning during exercise – switched on all the time.
This will allow subjects to become more efficient at pumping blood, and decreases blood sugar levels which will in turn decrease the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Exercise provides health benefits that include improving insulin sensitivity and weight control – but the option is not possible for everyone.
“If you exercise, it’s effectively a treatment for diabetes and obesity as you increase the metabolic rate of muscle,” Burris said. “You develop a more efficient muscle. That’s what you get from exercise. You develop more endurance and that is good for your metabolic function.
“Our drug compounds are doing similar things. They make muscles look like they’re exercising, turning on the genes that get activated during exercise, even if no exercise is happening. Both studies operate this way.”
Scientists in Melbourne, Australia, created a similar drug last year. And while scientists say no drug can recreate all the health benefits of exercise, a pill can reap the muscle benefits for those who are unable to exercise due to disability or poor health.
While REV-ERB has been proven to promote weight loss and improved metabolic function in animals, it also has effects on the brain – which researchers want to avoid.And ERR is an orphan receptor, meaning scientists don’t know what its natural ligand is.
The ligand is the molecule that binds to the receptor and regulates its activity. Some man-made ligands have been created, but they are not yet perfected for use in disease models.
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