As I wrote last week, I started using probiotics, along with fruit juice, whole fruit, and yogurt, on a vague intuition based on some reports that probiotics might improve my blood sugar, and somewhat better intuition that it might improve some other, er, passing problems.
So I’m just finishing my second jar of the 5-day probiotics (which lasts me about 7 days) and the results are that:
- I’m down to 264, which is now a couple of standard deviations below where I was stuck for so long (and getting close to 40 pounds off my starting weight);
- my morning fasting blood sugar has ranged from 95 to 117 with the average about 105, which is also a couple standard deviations down from what it had been.
Several people have also emailed me at [email protected] or commented on that last piece to tell me their experiences, and they’ve seen similar (or greater) improvements in blood sugar and comparable weight loss.
So, with n equal to about 5, there’s some success to report, and lots more questions to ask.
I’ve spent some time googling and reading the medical literature on probiotics, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, and it’s very interesting:
- Probiotics appear to improve glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and reduce gestational diabetes in a randomized clinical trial. (“Probiotics and dietary counselling contribute to glucose regulation during and after pregnancy: a randomised controlled trial“, Kirsi Laitinen and others).This is interesting in itself, but also gestational diabetes may be a good model for what happens in type 2 diabetes (T2DM), and women who have gestational diabetes problems are also more likely to develop T2DM in later life.
- In mouse models of T2DM, probiotics reduce body weight and fasting blood sugar. (“Effect of Lactobacillus gasseri BNR17 on blood glucose levels and body weight in a mouse model of type 2 diabetes“, S.I. Yun, H.O. Park and J.H. Kang)I’m no mouse, but yeah, that’s pretty much what I’m seeing.
- Supplementation with probiotics is associated with reduction of obesity in mice. (“Supplementation of Lactobacillus curvatus HY7601 and Lactobacillus plantarum KY1032 in Diet-Induced Obese Mice Is Associated with Gut Microbial Changes and Reduction in Obesity,” D.Y. Park and others.)
- A combination of probiotics and prebiotics improves lipid profile (ie, cholesterol) in mice. (“A potential synbiotic product improves the lipid profile of diabetic rats“, Mariana N Roselino and others.)
- I also found a paper that suggests improvement in all sorts of stuff of interest, but not a statistically significant improvement. (“Effect of Probiotics on Lipid Profile, Glycemic Control, Insulin Action, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammatory Markers in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Clinical Trial,” Zohreh Mazloom and others.)
Now, there are lots more papers to read, and there are a bunch of confounding factors in here. In particular, there don’t seem to have been any trials I can find of different probiotic strains combined in the same experimental protocol — and frankly, the notion of doing such an experiment in a clinical context, making a good experimental design, and getting it funded kinda gives me the willies anyway — but the study that didn’t have a statistically significant effect was using different strains from the others.
There were also a number of papers I haven’t read yet on how probiotics might be having these effects, by modulating immune response, digestion, or even directly by affecting the involuntary nervous system (!).
So, anyway, here’s what I think:
- my tiny, uncontrolled, group of people, including me, who have tried probiotic therapy have seen good results in weight control and glucose control;
- it’s interesting that my glucose has improved even though I’ve been getting more carbs than I had been;
- my initial survey of the literature does find a fair number of reports of probiotics improving one or more of the things I’m concerned about;
- if you have weight or T2DM issues, it’s worth a try.
There are also some questions I’m interested in:
Why are there different populations of gut bacteria in different people? There are a number of possibilities around, including genetics, dietary differences, and the effects of antibiotic therapy. It is interesting that the “obesity epidemic” seems closely correlated with the introduction of broad-spectrum antibiotics. It would be very interesting to find some old cesspits from outhouses before the introduction of antibiotics and try to figure out what our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ gut bugs were like. Although not interesting enough that I’m going to go out and do it myself.
Which gut bacteria are associated with the best improvements? Right now it appears that bifida strains are the best, but it’s really not clear.
What are the effects of similar supplementation on non-obese, not T2DM people?
Right now, all I can really say is “stay tuned”, but I think maybe there’s something to this probiotic thing.