Gut microbiota may predict diabetes risk

Jacob Collyer-Smith Lifestyle Writer

Our bodies are home to ten times more cells of bacteria than our own human cells*. The majority of these bacteria, including probiotics, are found in the gastrointestinal tract, where they can account to approximately 1.5 kg's of our overall weight. Scientists have begun to analyse the significance of this symbiotic relationship, and more specifically; the impact that the bacteria have on our metagenome - the entire collection of genes from ourselves and the microorganisms we share our body with.

Recent analysis, carried out by researchers in Sweden, has revealed that those with type 2 diabetes have an entirely different composition of gut microbiota than healthy people. The three Swedish research groups compared the metagenomes of 145 women with diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance to a healthy control group, the results revealed a significant difference in gut microbiota. Find out more about the gut microbiota over on our sister site, the Probiotics Learning Lab.

These findings enabled the Gothenburg-based researchers to develop a new model for early diagnosis, with better predictive value than the model used currently, which uses body-mass index and waist-hip ratio.

"By examining the patient's gut microbiota, we could predict which patients are at risk of developing diabetes. The big challenge is to find out whether the composition of the gut microbiota promotes the onset of age-related diabetes. If this is the case, this would indicate new opportunities to prevent the disease," commented researcher Fredrik Bäckhed of Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

More research must be undertaken to establish if the changes in gut microbiota are a contributory factor, or even the main cause, of the development of type 2 diabetes. From there, we may see a change in how effectively, and early, we can diagnose and treat those at risk of type 2 diabetes.

Want to read more about the gut microbiota and its links to diabetes and weight loss?

*Update January 2016: this fact has recently been questioned by another study. Read about bacteria cells in your body.


  1. Bäckhead, F. et al (2013) Gut metagenome in European women with normal, impaired and diabetic glucose control. Nature.