Childhood diabetes, called type I diabetes, is a mysterious disease that usually affects young people at a young age and leads to multiple health complications. Although the causes of this disease remain obscure, it seems that the presence of certain intestinal bacteria could help prevent the onset of this form of diabetes.
In general, diabetes can be defined as an excess of sugar (glucose) in the blood (hyperglycemia) caused by a loss of insulin production by the pancreas. This anomaly causes a massive excretion of water and therefore abundant urine as well as intense thirst.
This inability to absorb glucose effectively, however, has even more serious long-term effects. Indeed, deprived of glucose, the cells must turn to other types of energy substances (fats and proteins) to meet their needs. This leads to the depletion of the body’s reserves and marked weight loss. Even today, the daily injection of insulin remains the only way to ensure the survival of people affected by the disease.
Diabetes in children: a disease of the immune system
Juvenile diabetes is what is called an autoimmune disease (dysregulation of the immune system) which, instead of being limited to its function of preventing external aggressions, also attacks certain components of the human body.
In the case of diabetes, this poor functioning of the immune system is catastrophic, because it leads to the pure and simple destruction of the cells of the pancreas involved in the secretion of insulin.
The causes of this destruction remain unclear. But several observations suggest that significant changes in our way of life could contribute to this phenomenon.
Too much hygiene interferes with the immune system
The frequency of type I diabetes has increased considerably over the last decades in industrialized countries. Several researchers have hypothesized that this increase could be linked to the drastic decrease in microbes present in our environment due to the constant improvement in hygiene conditions.
According to this hypothesis, by being less solicited by the various microbes, the immune system is not used to the maximum of its capacities. It will then compensate for this “inactivity” by attacking the cells of certain organs.
It is also believed that a similar phenomenon is the cause of a significant proportion of asthma, allergies and other autoimmune disorders currently on the rise in industrialized countries.
Protective probiotics against childhood diabetes
A study carried out by American and British researchers and published in the prestigious journal Nature vividly illustrates the role of the immune system in the development of juvenile diabetes.
In this study, the researchers examined the influence of environmental microbes on the onset of diabetes in mice genetically predisposed to developing the disease. They observed that when these mice lived in a sterile environment, without any external microbes, they were quickly (from 10 weeks after birth) affected by diabetes.
However, when these same mice were exposed to bacteria normally found in the intestine, the frequency of diabetes decreased significantly. These observations therefore suggest that the presence of bacteria is necessary to effectively control the immune system and thus prevent the onset of diabetes.
Thus, the results of this study show that the consumption of food sources that help maintain the proper functioning of this microbial flora, such as facto-fermented foods or foods enriched with probiotics, could represent an unsuspected weapon in the prevention of juvenile diabetes. of the child.
Wen et al. Innate immunity and intestinal microbiota in the development of Type 1 diabetes. Nature; 455: 1109-13.
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