DIABETES: Plant Metabolites Are Good Antidiabetics

Type 2 diabetes, along with obesity, is a major public health problem. The global prevalence of the disease in adults has more than tripled in less than 20 years, from about 150 million in 2000 to more than 450 million in 2019. This prevalence could rise to 700 million by 2045. There is therefore an urgent need to find resources for everyone to prevent the development of the disease. Among these tools, nutrition represents a path of prevention, both logical and non-drug.

The Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (Boston) team, led by pr. Frank Hu and his colleagues at the Department of Nutrition, here identify the profiles of metabolites linked to various plant-based diets, and look at exactly which may be associated with this reduction in type 2 diabetes.

Metabolomics to identify antidiabetic metabolites

The diabetes epidemic is mainly caused by unhealthy diets, overweight or obesity, genetic predisposition and other lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise. Diet is therefore a priority prophylactic target, especially since plant-based diets, especially healthy diets rich in high-quality foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, are already known to be associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

However, the underlying mechanisms have yet to be identified and metabolomics can help us do that.

The metabolomics: a metabolite is a substance used or produced by the chemical processes of the living organism and includes both the compounds found in various foods and a whole complex variety of molecules created when these compounds are broken down and transformed for use by the body. Thus, diet is reflected in the metabolite profile. Recent technological advances in high-throughput metabolomic profiling allow for more advanced nutritional research through the identification of all the different metabolites present in a biological sample.

analysis of blood plasma samples and food intake of 10,684 participants from 3 potential cohorts, average 54 years old and with a high body mass index (BMI) (mean 25.6 kg/m2) allows to identify foods and metabolites that are effective in preventing of type 2 diabetes. General Vegetable Diet Index), a speed index healthy herbs (hPDI: Healthy Vegetable Diet Index) and an unhealthy food index (uPDI: Unhealthy Plant Based Food Index† These nutritional indices were based on the consumption of 18 food groups:

  • healthy plant foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, vegetable oils, and tea/coffee); unhealthy plant foods (refined grains, fruit juices, potatoes, sugary drinks and sweets/desserts); foodstuffs of animal origin (animal fats, dairy products, eggs, fish/seafood, meat and various foodstuffs of animal origin). The team distinguished between healthy and unhealthy plant foods based on their already known association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and other conditions, including obesity and high blood pressure (HTA).

By analyzing these data and nutritional indexes, the team was able to elucidate the correlations between metabolites, nutritional index, and risk of type 2 diabetes.

Metabolites, Diet, and Diabetes Risk: the study found that, compared to participants without diabetes,

  • participants diagnosed with diabetes during follow-up have a lower intake of healthy plant foods and lower PDI and uPDI scores;
  • participants diagnosed with diabetes during follow-up have higher mean BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol levels;
  • tend to take blood pressure and cholesterol medications, have a family history of diabetes, and are less physically active.
  • Metabolomics data show that plant-based diets are associated with unique multi-metabolite profiles that differ significantly between healthy (hPDI) and unhealthy (uPDI) diets;
  • higher hPDI metabolite profile scores and to a lesser extent PDI are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

But what are the most beneficial metabolites? Analysis shows that levels of trigonelline, hippurate, isoleucine, a small set of triacyglycerols (TAGs), and several other intermediate metabolites explain this association between plant-based diets and risk elimination type 2 diabetes:

  • For example, it is known that trigonelline, which is present in high concentrations in coffee – through animal studies – has beneficial effects against insulin resistance;
  • higher levels of hippurate are associated with better glycemic control, improved insulin secretion, and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

The team therefore proposes to study these metabolites further.

“While it is difficult to disentangle the contributions of individual foods because they are analyzed together, the individual metabolites from the consumption of polyphenol-rich plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, coffee and legumes are all closely linked to a healthy plant-based diet and reduced risk. on diabetes”.

In summary, this comprehensive analysis confirms the benefits of plant-based diets in the prevention of diabetes and suggests further investigation of certain metabolites that appear to be natural, therapeutic and prophylactic targets.

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