Science Pick: Gut Microbiota and Environmental Chemicals in Diabetes and Obesity

Sarah Howard,
CHE Diabetes-Obesity Spectrum Working Group Coordinator

CHE’s January 19th call was on the interactions between gut microbiota and environmental chemicals in diabetes and obesity, a new area of research. Separately, gut microbiota and environmental chemicals may both contribute to the development of diabetes and obesity; what about the effects in combination?

The presenters reviewed research that shows that gut microorganisms can affect the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination of environmental chemicals. For example, gut microbiota can cause a leaky gut, increasing absorption of chemicals. Gut microbes can modify polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to turn them into estrogenic compounds. Microbiota can also affect detoxification processes in the liver.

An individual’s gut microbes may affect the rate at which they clear chemicals from their body. Seventy five percent of diabetogenic and obesogenic chemicals can be metabolized by gut microbes.

The interactions between gut microbiota and environmental chemicals may be significant not only for diabetes and obesity, but also for other diseases as well. It is a topic sure to see more research in the future.

To access slides and papers, visit the call page.