Mushrooms could help prevent diabetes

One serving – around 3 ounces – every day could be all it takes to kick-start the positive chain reaction in the gut, say researchers at the Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

The mushrooms help populate the gut with more short-chain fatty acids – succinate and propionate – that manage glucose production, which could have positive knock-on effects for the prevention of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

In a healthy person, insulin is released by the pancreas to break-down the sugars n carbohydrates and converts them to glucose, or blood-sugar. But in diabetics and prediabetics, the insulin becomes less effective, and the glucose is not properly managed, and this can lead to heart disease and stroke.

But the discovery by the Penn State researchers that mushrooms can give the process a helping hand opens the door to new and more effective therapies to treat diabetes.

Their research has been limited to laboratory mice, but they are hopeful similar effects would be seen in people. They fed the mice the equivalent of a daily serving of the mushrooms and noted the changes that started to happen in the gut; the most significant change was the increase in the population of Prevotella, bacteria that produce propionate and succinate.

The mushrooms acted as a prebiotic, the researchers said, which feeds beneficial bacteria already in the gut. A probiotic instead introduces the ‘good’ bacteria back into the gut.

(Source: Journal of Functional Foods, 2018; 45: 223)