Researcher gets $552,000 grant to study how dietary fiber can protect against diabetes



Credit: Georgia State University

ATLANTA–Dr. Jun Zou, a research assistant professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, has received a four-year, $552,000 grant to study how dietary fiber can protect against diabetes and other disorders associated with metabolic syndrome.

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects 30.3 million adults in the United States and is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than tripled, and this increase is partially due to the consumption of modern diets that lack dietary fiber.

Zou’s Junior Faculty Development Award from the American Diabetes Association will be used to increase understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which dietary fiber prevents the development of metabolic syndrome, a collection of disorders that includes high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. This knowledge could enable harnessing of these pathways to safely treat and prevent type 2 diabetes.

“In this work, we expect to develop new strategies to maintain a healthy intestinal-microbiota relationship to prevent metabolic disease, including diabetes,” Zou said.

In previous studies, Zou discovered that enriching the diet with the fermentable fiber inulin restores intestinal health, nourishes microbiota (gut bacteria) and prevents the development of metabolic syndrome. He also found that diets lacking fermentable fiber fail to maintain a healthy gut microbiota, which results in low-grade inflammation that drives insulin resistance and other aspects of metabolic syndrome.

Zou, principal investigator of the grant, will collaborate with Dr. Didier Merlin, a professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, to explore a nano-particle-based delivery approach to restore intestinal production of IL-22 (an important cytokine in supporting a healthy gut), maintain gut health and guard against high-fat-diet induced metabolic syndrome.


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