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Unlocking the Gut Microbiome : Alistipes Bacteria’s Role in Improving Insulin Resistance and Reducing Diabetes Risk

Over a century ago, the initial observations of a community of microbial cells, predominantly composed of bacteria, dwelling in both our upper and lower intestines, marked the beginnings of what we now refer to as the “microbiome.” Coined by Joshua Lederberg in 2009, the term refers to a rich and intricate ecosystem of microorganisms that exert significant influence over various facets of human health and physiology. Despite the dedicated efforts of researchers in this field, our grasp of this complex microbial landscape still remains in its infancy, with much more to be uncovered and understood. The microbiome continues to be a subject of intense scientific inquiry, as its profound implications for human well-being become increasingly evident.(1,2

Can Our Gut Bacteria Improve Insulin Resistance?

Now, in a recent study conducted by researchers at the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences in Japan, a significant breakthrough has been achieved. They have uncovered a distinct order of gut bacteria known as Alistipes indistinctus, which demonstrates potential in safeguarding against type 2 diabetes and obesity by enhancing insulin resistance. This discovery sheds light on the intricate interplay between gut bacteria and metabolic health, presenting a promising avenue for future interventions.(3)

Additionally, the research identified bacteria belonging to the order Lachnospiraceae, which are more prevalent in the stools of individuals exhibiting insulin resistance compared to those without. This finding suggests that these bacteria could serve as valuable biomarkers for identifying and monitoring the condition.

Such insights into the microbial composition of the gut offer valuable tools for assessing and understanding metabolic health, paving the way for targeted approaches in the prevention and management of conditions like type 2 diabetes and obesity. The study, published in the esteemed journal Nature, marks a significant stride towards unraveling the complexities of the human microbiome and its profound impact on our overall well-being.(4) 

What Does the Study Show?

The connection between gut bacteria and insulin resistance is a subject of keen interest among researchers. In a comprehensive study, 306 healthy individuals ranging from 20 to 75 years of age, with an average age of 61 and none of whom had diabetes, were examined. Stool samples obtained during regular checkups were meticulously analyzed. Among this cohort, 71 percent were male.

Upon close examination, a notable correlation emerged. Individuals exhibiting higher levels of certain carbohydrates in their fecal matter, specifically monosaccharides like glucose, fructose, galactose, and mannose, were found to be more likely to display insulin resistance. This finding underscores the potential role of dietary carbohydrates in influencing metabolic health.(5)

Delving deeper into the microbial composition of the samples, the researchers found a higher abundance of Lachnospiraceae bacteria in individuals exhibiting insulin resistance. Additionally, those with elevated levels of the aforementioned monosaccharides in their stool tended to have a greater presence of this bacterial family. This discovery suggests a potential link between specific bacteria and the development of insulin resistance.

Conversely, individuals whose stool samples featured a higher proportion of Bacteroidales-type bacteria, as opposed to Lachnospiraceae, demonstrated lower levels of insulin resistance.(6) Moreover, these individuals tended to have fewer monosaccharides present in their gut. This finding highlights the potential impact of gut microbial composition on metabolic health and insulin sensitivity.

The study provided valuable insights into the intricate interplay between gut bacteria, dietary factors, and insulin resistance. It further underscored the significance of understanding the role of the microbiome in metabolic health and offers potential avenues for interventions aimed at improving insulin sensitivity and preventing conditions like type 2 diabetes. 

How the Study Catalogued Fecal Metabolites?

The researchers believe that a key strength of their study was in the comprehensive cataloging of 2,800 annotated fecal metabolites, coupled with an in-depth analysis of the microbiome and host pathology.

Metabolites, which are small molecules produced during cell metabolism, offer valuable chemical insights into the cells responsible for their production.

This approach enabled the researchers to identify specific metabolites linked to insulin resistance, establish connections between fecal carbohydrates and low-grade inflammation associated with insulin resistance, and subsequently select candidates for validation through experiments on mice.

One of the study’s authors explained that while previous studies have shown associations between gut microbes and conditions like obesity or insulin resistance in humans, they failed to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between these microbes and obesity. In this study, through a combination of metabolome analysis and animal experiments, the team not only established a causal relationship, but also demonstrated that oral administration of Alistipes can provide protection against insulin resistance.

The study primarily focused on hydrophilic metabolites – those that readily mix with water. In future research, the team aims to delve into hydrophobic or lipidomic metabolites, which, based on preliminary analysis, also encompass intriguing metabolites associated with insulin resistance and sensitivity. 

How Does Alistipes Bacteria Improves Insulin Resistance?

Alistipes bacteria, a specific genus of gut microbes, which was studied by the research team, have been implicated in potentially improving insulin resistance. While the precise mechanisms are still under investigation, emerging research suggests several possible ways in which Alistipes may influence insulin sensitivity:(7) 

  • Short-Chain Fatty Acid Production: Alistipes bacteria are known to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) as a byproduct of their metabolism. SCFAs, such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate, have been associated with enhanced insulin sensitivity. They can regulate glucose metabolism and improve insulin signaling in cells.(8)
  • Inflammation Modulation: Alistipes species may play a role in reducing inflammation in the gut. Chronic low-grade inflammation is a factor contributing to insulin resistance. By modulating the immune response, Alistipes bacteria could potentially help mitigate this inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Dietary Fiber Fermentation: Alistipes bacteria are known to be involved in the fermentation of dietary fiber in the gut. This process leads to the production of SCFAs, which, as mentioned earlier, can have positive effects on insulin sensitivity.
  • Regulation of Gut Barrier Function: Some studies suggest that certain gut bacteria, including Alistipes, may influence the integrity of the gut barrier. A healthy gut barrier helps prevent the leakage of harmful substances into the bloodstream, which can contribute to metabolic dysfunction and insulin resistance.(9)
  • Metabolism of Bile Acids: Alistipes bacteria may be involved in the metabolism of bile acids, which play a role in lipid metabolism and glucose homeostasis. This interaction could potentially impact insulin sensitivity.

It is important to note that while there is growing evidence suggesting a potential link between Alistipes bacteria and improved insulin resistance, research in this area is still in its early stages. Further studies are needed to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the specific mechanisms through which Alistipes and other gut bacteria influence metabolic health. 

Accessing A. indistinctus Bacteria and Unexpected Role of Monosascharides

It is important to know that access to A. indistinctus bacteria is presently constrained. However, the authors of the study indicate that while probiotics containing A. indistinctus are not currently available, the landscape may evolve with further substantiation of this research.(10)

Regarding the potential biomarker for insulin resistance, Lachnospiraceae, one potential approach is to identify specific bacteriophages and/or endolysins targeting Lachnospiraceae. These agents could potentially destroy strains of Lachnospiraceae, provided they are deemed safe for human use.(11)

Additionally, the revelation of monosaccharides in the stools of individuals has taken many experts by surprise as up until now, it was widely believed that everything absorbable is already taken up by the time it reaches the colon.

It is now being believed that these carbohydrates likely originate from dietary fibers, which are typically broken down by gut bacteria. With a higher presence of Lachnospiraceae in the colon, there is also a greater likelihood of increased monosaccharide production by these microbes, which may result in elevated fecal monosaccharide levels.(12)

However, since monosaccharides cannot be sourced from within the human body to the intestinal tract, it makes it improbable that insulin plays a role in the presence of increased levels of monosaccharides in fecal matter. 

What Other Steps Can You Take To Reduce Your Diabetes Risk?

Reducing your risk of developing diabetes involves adopting a holistic approach to health. Here are several steps you can take: 

  • Maintain a Balanced Diet: Focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit the intake of sugary, processed foods, and opt for complex carbohydrates.
  • Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week, along with strength training exercises on two or more days a week.
  • Weight Management: Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Losing excess weight, particularly around the abdomen, can significantly reduce diabetes risk.
  • Monitor Blood Sugar Levels: If you have prediabetes or are at risk for diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar levels can provide early indicators of any potential issues.
  • Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration supports overall health, including metabolic function. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Get Quality Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Poor sleep can disrupt hormonal balance and contribute to insulin resistance.
  • Limit Processed Foods and Sugars: Minimize your consumption of processed foods, sugary snacks, and sugary beverages, as they can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels.
  • Know Your Family History: Understanding your family’s health history can provide important insights into your own risk factors.

Remember that making positive lifestyle changes can have a profound impact on your overall health and significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetes. It is always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance.


The research on gut bacteria’s influence on insulin resistance and diabetes risk represents a significant stride in our understanding of metabolic health. The discovery of Alistipes indistinctus and its potential to mitigate insulin resistance opens up new avenues for intervention and prevention strategies. Additionally, the identification of specific bacterial biomarkers, such as Lachnospiraceae, provides valuable insights for assessing metabolic health.

While our knowledge of the gut microbiome is still in its early stages, this study underscores the profound impact these microbial communities can have on our overall well-being. It highlights the need for continued research in this field to unlock the full potential of harnessing gut bacteria for metabolic health improvements. As our understanding deepens, we may witness the development of innovative therapies and interventions that revolutionize the management of insulin resistance and diabetes. The potential implications of this research extend far beyond the realm of gut health, offering hope for a future with reduced diabetes risk and improved metabolic outcomes for individuals worldwide.


  1. Davenport, E.R., Sanders, J.G., Song, S.J., Amato, K.R., Clark, A.G. and Knight, R., 2017. The human microbiome in evolution. BMC biology, 15(1), pp.1-12.
  2. ASM.org. (n.d.). Microbiomes: An Origin Story.
  3. taxonomy (n.d.). Taxonomy browser (Lachnospiraceae). [online] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi [Accessed 26 Sep. 2023].
  4. Takeuchi, T., Kubota, T., Nakanishi, Y., Tsugawa, H., Suda, W., Kwon, A.T.J., Yazaki, J., Ikeda, K., Nemoto, S., Mochizuki, Y. and Kitami, T., 2023. Gut microbial carbohydrate metabolism contributes to insulin resistance. Nature, pp.1-7.
  5. Biology Online (2019). Monosaccharide Definition and Examples – Biology Online Dictionary. [online] Biology Articles, Tutorials & Dictionary Online. Available at: https://www.biologyonline.com/dictionary/monosaccharide.
  6. Kulagina, E.V., Efimov, B.A., Maximov, P.Y., Kafarskaia, L.I., Chaplin, A.V. and Shkoporov, A.N., 2012. Species composition of Bacteroidales order bacteria in the feces of healthy people of various ages. Bioscience, biotechnology, and biochemistry, 76(1), pp.169-171.
  7. Parker, B.J., Wearsch, P.A., Veloo, A.C. and Rodriguez-Palacios, A., 2020. The genus Alistipes: gut bacteria with emerging implications to inflammation, cancer, and mental health. Frontiers in immunology, 11, p.906.
  8. Frolova, M.S., Suvorova, I.A., Iablokov, S.N., Petrov, S.N. and Rodionov, D.A., 2022. Genomic reconstruction of short-chain fatty acid production by the human gut microbiota. Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, 9, p.949563.
  9. Ghosh, S., Whitley, C.S., Haribabu, B. and Jala, V.R., 2021. Regulation of intestinal barrier function by microbial metabolites. Cellular and molecular gastroenterology and hepatology, 11(5), pp.1463-1482.
  10. Nagai, F., Morotomi, M., Watanabe, Y., Sakon, H. and Tanaka, R., 2010. Alistipes indistinctus sp. nov. and Odoribacter laneus sp. nov., common members of the human intestinal microbiota isolated from faeces. International journal of systematic and evolutionary microbiology, 60(6), pp.1296-1302.
  11. Vacca, M., Celano, G., Calabrese, F.M., Portincasa, P., Gobbetti, M. and De Angelis, M., 2020. The controversial role of human gut lachnospiraceae. Microorganisms, 8(4), p.573.
  12. Chumpitazi, B.P., 2020. The gut microbiome as a predictor of low fermentable oligosaccharides disaccharides monosaccharides and polyols diet efficacy in functional bowel disorders. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, 36(2), pp.147-154.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 30, 2023

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