Dr Wu’s research - RAH Research Fund

Dr Tongzhi Wu, Senior Clinical Research Fellow at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH)

“Working at the forefront of research to help people suffering from type 2 diabetes is both exciting and rewarding.” Dr Tongzhi Wu.

Dr Wu says there is growing recognition that the stomach and intestines are central to the control of blood sugar levels after meals. With a better understanding of how certain nutrients interact with the gut, we can modify this process to advantage.

“My research is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which nutrients, bioactive compounds and diabetes drugs interact with the gut,” said Dr Wu.

Dr Wu says the gut ‘tastes’ contents in a similar manner to the tongue. Recent evidence suggests that bitter-tasting substances in the gut can reduce appetite and slow the emptying of meals from the stomach, by stimulating gastrointestinal hormone release. This in turn may improve blood glucose control and optimise efficacy of anti-diabetic medicines in people with diabetes.

“We all encounter bitter substances every day, not just from plant-based foods, but also from some amino acids, the building blocks of dietary protein, and from bile secreted into the gut,” he said.

In a recent trial, Dr Wu gave diabetic volunteers a bitter compound inside a capsule, so that its taste in the mouth was masked. These volunteers ate substantially less at their next meal than after a ‘placebo’ capsule.

“If we can stimulate this gastrointestinal hormone secretion using specific diets or physiological substances, particularly bitter tasting compounds, either alone or in combination with antidiabetic drugs such as metformin, we hope to reduce the rise in blood glucose after meals in people with type 2 diabetes,” he said.

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