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How to protect your child from developing diabetes
Your pancreas is tasked with regulating blood sugar levels, when it fails in this task – diabetes happens.
So what causes it to fail ?
In a soundbite………………………a shortage of beta cells.
A low beta cell count
Now, there are a multitude of reasons, why beta cell numbers tank.
Overwork. Deliberate destruction. Poisoning. Old age.
It’s complicated…….. and the destruction is relative.
That said, the more beta cells you have to begin with, the more wiggle room you have, when it comes to losing them.
A pancreas chock full of beta cells is going to be more resilient.
So how do you get more ?
The birth of a beta cell
The story actually begins in utero.
As baby develops, cells destined to be beta cells, form from special progenitors, they take up position in baby’s pancreas and wait, to come on line.
As long as junior is hooked up to the feeding line, they’re not actually needed.
Once the line is cut, they get busy……………
They start to divide furiously.
Hitting a high point, in terms of numbers, at the age of two. And then……………….. it’s a slow and steady decline, with a lot of fine tuning and maturing.
By the age of 5 years, the final beta cell mass is pretty much established.
Metabolic demand shifts the balance
The beta cell number is not absolutely FIXED, there is some wiggle room. Should the metabolic situation DEMAND a change, the beta cells can step up to the plate and increase.
High DEMAND happens in obesity and pregnancy.
In people who develop diabetes, the beta cell numbers don’t expand to meet that HIGH DEMAND. Eish !
So what sets that base line ?
Logic says genes and diet, but could there be more to the story ?
A group of researchers based at the University of Oregon have shown, gut bacteria are involved.
Using zebrafish, the team showed when baby fish grew up “germ free” (gnotobiotic zebrafish), they ended up with significantly less beta cells than normal.
Gut bacteria promoted beta cell expansion.
And more beta cells, means more insulin and better sugar control.
This can be seen here….
The photo is a slice of islet from a normal baby zebrafish, 6 days after fertilization, compared to a slice of islet from a baby zebrafish with no gut bacteria. The translucent green reflects the amount of insulin.
Baby zebrafish, with healthy doses of insulin, do better at controlling their blood sugar.
BefA is doing it
Intrigued, the team set about finding out, just how the gut bacteria living in the zebrafish, made zebrafish beta cells grow. It turned out, a few of the gut residents, secreted a protein, that prompted beta cells to divide.
The team named this protein beta cell expansion factor A (BefA).
And concluded gut bacteria play a role in the development of the digestive organs of zebrafish.
Do bacteria grow human pancreases ?
Human gut bacteria secrete befA too
And the befA they produce, makes beta cells in zebrafish grow – suggesting human gut bacteria could be involved.
Unfortunately, “we’re” not able to grow human beta islets in a dish, so there is no way to know for sure, whether human gut bacteria, helped build your pancreas.
But, odds are they did.
Early disruptions to gut flora
Human babies that are short changed in terms of their gut flora, are at risk of developing diabetes, both type 1 and type 2.
This research suggests, part of the risk, might be a lower beta cell reserve.
If you have been microbiologically disadvantaged, be vigilant. The lack of genetic diversity early on, could have seen you get exposed to fewer BetA genes, leaving you with less of a buffer against lifestyle risks.
NOTE : If you’re a wanna-be or about-2-be Mom, do what you can to cultivate a diverse microflora in your little one, so you help to build a better pancreas and thus protect your little one from the diabetes scourge.
In insulin resistant peeps, the resident bacteria have ganged up and decided, insulin is NOT COOL. Since body cells, don’t want to break social protocol…………..
What if childhood obesity has nothing to do with food ? What if it begins in the doctor’s rooms ? Specifically with antibiotic prescriptions in the under twos F
Babies who arrive by c-section, avoid the PAIN but GAIN a lot more bacteria which belong to the Firmicutes family. And these are the “fat” bacteria.