Taste Receptors in your Gut Are Dysfunctional in Diabetes

September 09, 2013

Taste Receptors in your Gut Are Dysfunctional in Diabetes 

 Reference:  Diabetes, Sept 2013 

 I bet you didn’t know that you had taste receptors in your intestine!  I didn’t.  But it makes sense when you think about how things go awry in diabetes.  And that’s just what this very interesting and seminal research figured out.  To do this study, 27 people had to be endoscoped twice, at low and high blood glucose levels.  Biopsies were taken of their intestinal lining to understand the actions of the taste receptors in response to different glucose levels. 

What they found was just what you would intuitively expect.  In adult-onset diabetes, there is a problem with the taste receptors.  In the normal subjects, there was a reciprocal relationship with higher glucose and the expression of the taste receptors.  That way, glucose is handled properly.  In the folks with diabetes, that didn’t happen and glucose was absorbed too quickly and went up too high. As the authors state: “This defect may enhance glucose absorption in type 2 patients and exacerbate postprandial hyperglycemia”. 

 In Type two diabetes, that disorder that most of us get when we put on weight in a gradual and gradated fashion, we have now found a disorder of how that glucose is absorbed.  Too fast and too high.  When you get rapid absorption, you stimulate your pancreas to put out a burst of insulin.  Insulin is your storage hormone and tucks that glucose way as fat.  But insulin also keeps your fat cells locked shut and tight.   The net effect is that we store those calories we wanted to use as fuel, so we feel fatigued and tired because that glucose isn’t available for energy use.  It’s locked up in fat cells (after transitioning through our blood as LDLs that are inflamed and glycated setting off the beginning of coronary artery disease.)  So our blood sugar goes swooping up, our insulin follows, our blood sugar comes crashing down, and we feel awful, and start doing “brownie seeking behavior”.  At 10 am we are all off to the donut shop to get some quick carbs.  

And our fat cells get a bit bigger and our pancreas has to put out a bit more insulin.  Our pancreas only has a certain lifetime supply of insulin it can put out, so eventually, it gets burned out.  The fatter we get, the faster we burn it out. That all sounds like a treadmill we ought to get off of.  The solution here is looking us right in the face.  Sugar is a problem.  When you eat it, your tongue registers it as sweet, as does your intestine.  And both send messages to your pancreas to make insulin.  But too high, too fast, and then we end up with too low, too often.  And the net effect is that we get a bit fatter, and reproduce the whole cycle all over again. 

 WWW. What will work for me?  Dr. Lustig, on YouTube, has a brilliant lecture on the evils of sugar.  He points to the sacred cow of American breakfast, orange juice, as the archetypal source of sugar to avoid.  Watch him. Then stop eating sugar if you want to lose weight, have the energy to live with, and want to avoid diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.   Goodness. That’s a heavy load to lay on your sweet receptors in your gut. But that’s what this research supports.

This column was written by Dr. John Whitcomb, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI.