Stomach Ulcer Bug May Trigger Diabetes

stomach ulcer diabetesHelicobacter Pylori, the bug that causes stomach ulcers, may also be at the root of type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.  The action of the bacteria may combine with overweight or obesity to trigger the disease.  This is frightening news, bearing in kind that more than half the world’s population have H pylori in their gut.

Diabetes remains a bit of a mystery, although huge progress has been made into determining exactly what triggers this ever more common disease.  We know that overweight and obesity, age, lifestyle habits and genetic predisposition all play a part.  However, there is still research being done into exactly why this disease strikes at some and not at others.

Type 2 diabetes happens when the body develops resistance to the interaction of insulin with the cells, which should stimulate them to take up and store sugars from the bloodstream after a meal.  The cells become unable to respond and the sugars stay in the blood, where the high levels can cause damage to organs and body functions.  Poor production of insulin itself may also be implicated.  Heart disease, kidney damage, blindness, and gangrene are a few of the complications that can arise when diabetes is left untreated.

With 26 millions Americans affected by the disease and 246 million worldwide, there is plenty of cause for concern.  Diabetes costs the US at least $174 billion annually in treatment, hospital stays, and lost workdays.

H pylori is a common bacterium found in the stomachs of over half of all people, and it has been linked not only to gastric and duodenal ulcers but also to cancer.  It is difficult to treat due to rising levels of resistance to antibiotics due to over use in the past.  However, at least 80% of everyone who has the bug shows no symptoms, and scientists believe the bacteria may have a role to play in the natural functioning of the digestive system.

Now scientists have found that H pylori were linked with raised blood sugar levels in two large groups examined between 1988 and 2000.  Drs Yu Chen and Martin Blaser of the New York University School of Medicine found that a combination of infection with the bug and being overweight increased the risk of diabetes more than either factor on its own.

The doctors looked at data from two large studies, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys of 1988-1994 and 1999-2000.  They took a cross section of about 13,500 individuals on whom information was available as to whether they were infected with H pylori.

They found after controlling for some factors that having the infection was associated with raised blood sugar in the standard HbA1c blood sugar test in people aged 18 and over.  They also looked at Body Mass Index information for the subjects, as BMI is a factor in the development of diabetes.  They found that the risk of diabetes, signified by the symptom of having raised blood glucose, was greater with subjects who had both H pylori infection and were overweight, or had a BMI over 25.  These two factors together raised the risk far higher than they did by themselves.

The study points to the need for extra medical vigilance for people who have both H pylori and are overweight.

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