Prebiotics may be beneficial in type 2 diabetes

US research suggests they reduce inflammatory and metabolic biomarkers in women with the disease

Prebiotics may have metabolic and anti-inflammatory benefits in type 2 diabetes, research suggests.


The finding comes from a review of 27 randomised controlled trials of several different prebiotics in mainly women who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes for between six months and 11 years.

Participants used the prebiotics, which are plant fibres that act as a fertiliser for bacteria in the gut, from four days to 12 weeks. 

The US investigators wanted to find out if they reduced inflammatory and metabolic biomarkers for type 2 diabtetes.

Twenty studies found a benefit with prebiotics over placebo on metabolic and/or inflammatory markers.

Glycaemia improved in 19 studies, cardiovascular markers in 15, body weight in nine studies and markers of inflammation also in nine.

"Doctors should be aware of the potential benefits of prebiotics for individuals with type 2 diabetes, especially females over the age of 18, which was the population most represented in our systematic review," said lead author Dr Melissa Brown of the University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut.

However, Dr Brown cautioned that the overall number of studies were too few to draw a definitive conclusion or make general recommendations.

"Whether or not doctors recommend prebiotics to their patients should be determined on an individual basis as with all medical and nutrition therapy," she said.

"The prebiotics with the most evidence to date are resistant starch, resistant dextrin and oligofructose-enriched inulin due to the quantity and quality of the publications analysed."

Dr Brown noted that many foods were sources of prebiotics or they could be consumed in fortified processed foods and beverages, or in supplements.

"The good thing about the evidence with prebiotics so far is that there really hasn't been any harmful adverse effects, except for some individuals experiencing some gas and bloating and other minor gastrointestinal effects," she added.

Dr Brown said future research should include studies of longer duration and studies that include both males and females.

More information: Journal of the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition 2019.