Gut taste “abnormal” trigger found in diabetes sufferers

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th September 2013

The way the gut “tastes” sweet food may be defective in sufferers of type 2 diabetes, leading to problems with glucose uptake, according to Australian researchers from the University of Adelaide.

The research, published in the international online journal Diabetes, identified for the first time “abnormal” control of so-called “sweet taste receptors” in the human intestine. The researchers said the work could have implications for a range of health and nutrition problems experienced by diabetes patients.

“When we talk about ‘sweet taste’, most people think of tasting sweet food on our tongue, but scientists have discovered that sweet taste receptors are present in a number of sites in the human body,” said Dr Richard Young, Senior Postdoctoral Researcher in the University of Adelaide’s Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory. “We’re now just beginning to understand the importance of sweet taste receptors in the human intestine and what this means for sufferers of type 2 diabetes,” he said.

In the study, Dr Young compared healthy adults with type 2 diabetic adults and found that the control of sweet taste receptors in the intestine of the healthy adults enabled their bodies to effectively regulate glucose intake 30 minutes after exposure to glucose. However, abnormalities in the diabetic adults resulted in more rapid glucose uptake.

“When sweet taste receptors in the intestine detect glucose, they trigger a response that may regulate the way glucose is absorbed by the intestine,” Dr Young said. “Our studies show that in diabetes patients, the glucose is absorbed more rapidly and greater quantities than in healthy adult,” he said.

“This shows that diabetes is not just a disorder of the pancreas and of insulin – the gut plays a bigger role than researchers have previously considered,” Dr Young said. “This is because the body’s own management of glucose uptake may rely on the actions of sweet taste receptors, and these appear to be abnormally controlled in people with type 2 diabetes,” he said.

Dr Young said more research is needed to better understand these mechanisms in the gut.

“So far, we’ve seen what happens in people 30 minutes after glucose is delivered to the intestine, but we also need to study what happens over the entire period of digestion,” Dr Young said. “There are also questions about whether or not the body responds differently to artificial sweeteners compared with natural glucose,” he said.

“By gaining a better understand of how these mechanisms in the gut work, we hope that eventually this will assist to better manage or treat diabetes in the future,” Dr Young said.

The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Diabetes Australia.

Diabetes sufferers may have "abnormal" gut taste mechanisms