Fecal Transplant for Weight Loss & Diabetes?

FMT (fecal microbiotal transplant) might be the most impactful treatment for your gut microbiota (the world of bacteria in your gut). Can it be used for weight loss and/or for diabetes? Let’s review what some of the first studies on this exciting therapy are finding.

Dr. R’s Fast Facts

  • The only clinical trial to date Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source shows FMT is not an effective treatment for weight loss or diabetes
  • Diet, probiotics, fiber, herbs and prebiotics have all shown meaningful effectiveness for diabetes
  • Diet and fiber have meaningful effects for weight loss
  • FMT is best used for resistant clostridium difficile infections
  • You have to be careful when reading headlines

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Dr. Michael Ruscio: Is fecal transplant therapy an effective therapy for weight loss and diabetes?

Hey, this is Dr. Ruscio. Let’s discuss this question.

If you’re not familiar with what fecal transplant therapy is, it’s maybe a little bit alarming if you’ve never heard of it. It’s essentially were you take the feces from a healthy donor, and you transplant that into the intestines of a recipient trying to re-colonize their intestinal bacteria.

So, let’s discuss the issue of that therapy and it’s effectiveness toward weight loss or diabetes.

You’re fast facts on this issue are: the only clinical trial to date Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, the one we are discussing today, has shown that FMT – fecal microbiotal transplant therapy – is not effective as a treatment for weight loss or for diabetes. Diet, probiotics, fiber, certain herbal supplements like berberine and prebiotics have all been shown meaningfully effective for diabetes. And diet and fiber have meaningful effects for weight loss. FMT is best used for resistant clostridium difficile infections. And you have to be careful when you are reading headlines.

And that is actually a nice segue into brunt of this video. So, the only clinical trail that we have to date that’s looked at this, has taken the feces from lean, healthy donors, and transplanted that into donors that were overweight, had metabolic syndrome, or problems with blood sugar. The researchers wanted to see if by doing this, you could have a positive impact on weight, blood sugar, and so on.

What was irritating about this study was that, in the conclusions, the authors mentioned that there was a favorable impact on blood sugar, and an increase in butyrate production – butyrate being a short-chain fatty acid that’s healthy, in some cases, for your intestinal cells.

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Now, I like to fact check things. When I actually went in and fact checked, this is what I found – I will just put the table up here for those who really want to dig into this. I will leave it up here for a second. What you are seeing is the placebo versus the control. The allogenic was the people receiving treatment, and the autogenic was the people receiving the placebo, which was, essentially, their own feces.

Now, the point I want to make here – the take-home point to this – is when you look at meaningful measures of blood sugar – like fasting blood glucose – you see no change from baseline to six weeks into the intervention. You’ve seen no meaningful change – no change at all – in body weight, body fat, or in blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Now, they had said that there was an improvement in blood sugar, and they referenced what I would call a somewhat obscure marker of glucose kinetics – which, yes, did improve. But, the much more powerful, clinically relevant marker of blood sugar – being fasting blood glucose; what you would go do a blood test through your local doctor’s office to monitor your diabetes or pre-diabetes – that marker didn’t change at all. So, you have to be careful when reading conclusions.

I’d like to give these researchers the benefit of the doubt; they weren’t doing this with any malicious intent. But, I think that people reading these studies have to have a critical eye to fact check, because this study could very easily be misinterpreted to give someone with challenging diabetes hope that, by doing FMT therapy, it could help. And, clearly, the results from this study show that – at least from this study, which the first of it’s kind; the first placebo clinical trial in humans – weight loss effect and effect on blood sugar are really not significant – not present really at all.

So, hopefully this helps you if this exotic treatment is one that you’ve been contemplating doing, I think this helps to set a realistic expectation for what kind of weight loss or blood sugar improvement benefits you may, or in this case, may not receive from this therapy.

So, this is Dr. Ruscio. And I hope this helps you get healthy and get back to your life.

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