Using bitter tastes to suppress the appetite is the latest science-backed strategy to help people with Type 2 diabetes manage their health.
Pioneering research from THRF Mid-Career Fellow Dr Tongzhi Wu at the University of Adelaide has shown that bitter supplements reduce the appetite of people both with and without Type 2 diabetes.
The next step is investigating why this is happening in order to design revolutionary treatments to better control blood glucose levels and reduce the health risks of Type 2 diabetes.
“There has been lots of research based on appetite and food intake. Our work has focused on the importance of different tastes, which can be detected by receptors throughout the gut,” Dr Wu said.
“When you eat sweet foods, sweet taste receptors are activated, which may induce a desire for more of the sweet stuff. In contrast, when you have a bitter supplement, these receptors find it unpleasant so the body wants you to stop taking it.
“We want to know, how do these gut receptors work? Once we know this, we can formulate a bitter compound or capsule to target the right area of the gut.”
Armed with funding from THRF, Dr Wu aims to investigate this further and ultimately improve current treatments for type 2 diabetes.
While a bitter agent may be the answer, Dr Wu also hopes to find a way to use the body’s own naturally-produced bitter bile acids to fight Type 2 diabetes.
“The questions I am asking is, can we use some physiological compounds already present in the gut, as opposed to a pharmaceutical intervention?
“We are currently looking at bile acids in the gall bladder that’s released in response to meals and is very bitter.
“Diabetics have an exaggerated glucose response after meals which doesn’t occur in healthy people. And we’ve found that the bile acid response to meals is dysfunctional in people with Type 2 diabetes, so this gives us a great lead.
“Some amino acids are also very bitter and potentially beneficial for controlling appetite and blood sugar.”
Dr Wu is also looking for people with Type 2 diabetes to participate in his trials. Anyone interested can email his team for more information via [email protected]
“We want to make a difference. We’re very grateful for The Hospital Research Foundation’s support so we can progress our work.”