Acarbose Microbiome

From Glucose Control to Gut Health: How Acarbose Bridges Metabolic Disease Management, Microbiome Science, and Aging Processes

Acarbose is widely recognized for its efficacy in managing Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) through blood sugar regulation. Yet, its value extends significantly into areas of gut health and longevity, unveiling a broader therapeutic potential. The gut microbiota, an integral part of our physiological ecosystem, is crucial for overall health, with imbalances affecting aging and life quality. This article explores Acarbose's impact beyond glucose control, highlighting its role in enhancing gut microbiota composition and supporting a holistic approach to health and longevity. By bridging metabolic disease management with microbiome science, Acarbose presents a promising avenue for extending quality life, marking a paradigm shift in our understanding and treatment of T2D and its associated conditions






8 mins

By: Shreshtha Jolly, Shriya Bakhshi


When we think of Acarbose, it's often in the context of its role in managing type 2 diabetes (T2D) and regulating blood sugar levels. However, its significance extends far beyond glucose control. In the realm of longevity, Acarbose emerges as a promising therapeutic, not just for its effects on blood sugar, but for its profound influence on gut health.

The gut microbiota, often referred to as our "forgotten organ," plays a pivotal role in maintaining overall health and vitality. Alterations in its composition can accelerate the aging process and significantly impact our quality of life. Herein lies the hidden potential of Acarbose—a medication traditionally prescribed for T2D management but now revealing its remarkable benefits for gut health and longevity.

In this article, we delve deep into the multifaceted effects of Acarbose, transcending its conventional role as a T2D drug. We explore how Acarbose not only regulates blood sugar levels but also nurtures the delicate balance of the gut microbiota, offering a holistic approach to promoting longevity and well-being.

Introduction to Acarbose

Acarbose is a medication commonly prescribed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes (T2D). Before delving into its mechanism of action, it's essential to familiarize ourselves with T2D—a chronic condition characterized by elevated blood sugar (glucose) levels beyond the normal threshold. After a meal, the digestive system breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars like glucose, which are released into the bloodstream. Subsequently, insulin is released to facilitate the uptake of excess glucose by cells and tissues for energy production. In T2D, insulin becomes less effective in this process, leading to a buildup of glucose in the bloodstream. [1]

So, where does acarbose come into play? Acarbose acts as a vigilant regulator, particularly concerning sugar metabolism. It belongs to a class of drugs called glucosidase inhibitors, which hinder the function of glucosidases—proteins that aid in breaking down complex sugars into simpler forms like glucose during digestion. By inhibiting these enzymes, acarbose slows the rate of sugar breakdown, thus helping to regulate the amount of glucose entering the bloodstream and mitigating the rapid progression of T2D. While primarily recognized for its role in blood sugar management, recent research has unveiled its impact on the gut microbiome and its implications for overall health. [2]

The Gut Microbiota

The gut microbiota, a community of microscopic organisms inhabiting our gastrointestinal tract, is a vital aspect of our physiological ecosystem. Comprising bacteria, eukarya, and archaea, this dynamic community undergoes constant change from birth to old age, influenced by factors such as nutrition, lifestyle, and genetics. [3]

Central to our metabolism, the gut microbiota aids in the breakdown of indigestible food components, synthesizes essential vitamins, and influences the storage of fat, regulation of blood sugar levels, and nutrient absorption. Imbalances in this microbial community, known as gut dysbiosis, have been associated with conditions like obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic disorders.

Recent research delving into the relationship between gut microbial changes and type 2 diabetes (T2D) has uncovered intriguing insights. In a study involving 121 participants categorized based on diabetic status, researchers utilized 16S rDNA-based high-throughput sequencing to analyze gut bacteria profiles. This technique, which identifies bacterial types by their genetic markers, revealed significant differences in gut microbiota composition between individuals with T2D and those with normal or pre-diabetic conditions. Notably, variations in bacteria involved in butyric acid production and levels of Verrucomicrobiae underscored the intricate role of gut microbiota in metabolic health. [4, 5]

Beyond metabolism, the gut microbiota influences drug absorption and efficacy through mechanisms such as enzymatic modification. Prodrugs, like Prontosil, rely on bacterial activity for conversion into active forms, highlighting the microbiota's role in drug metabolism and effectiveness. [6, 7]

In essence, the gut microbiota represents a complex network crucial for maintaining metabolic balance and drug response. As researchers explore the interplay between Acarbose and the gut microbiota, intriguing connections may emerge, shedding light on the medication's broader therapeutic effects and potential mechanisms of action.

Acarbose and the Gut Microbiome

A mounting body of research suggests that a primary mechanism through which acarbose confers its health benefits is by modulating the gut microbiota. As previously discussed, the gut microbiota plays a pivotal role in metabolism, aiding in the breakdown of food into energy-yielding products. One significant product of this process is short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are produced when gut microbes metabolize complex sugars like starch. SCFAs have been linked to longevity, with studies demonstrating a positive correlation between their levels and survival rates in both mice and humans. [8, 11]

By influencing the composition of gut microbes, acarbose can impact SCFA levels, thereby exerting lasting effects on longevity. For instance, research has shown that mice fed acarbose exhibit increased abundance of SCFA-producing bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, compared to those not receiving the medication. This elevation in SCFA-producing bacteria leads to heightened SCFA levels in the gut microbiota. Elevated SCFA levels are believed to extend lifespan by regulating immunity and reducing the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are known to contribute to various health issues including inflammation, cancer, and heart disease. [9, 10, 11]

In essence, the effects of acarbose on the gut microbiota can manifest through the modulation of SCFAs. By bolstering SCFA-producing bacteria like Lactobacillus, acarbose has the potential to elevate SCFA levels, thereby potentially prolonging lifespan by mitigating harmful ROS production and regulating immunity. This mechanism underscores the intricate interplay between acarbose, SCFA levels, and longevity.

Acarbose and Inflammation

In addition to its impact on SCFA-producing bacteria, acarbose also influences the composition of other gut microbes, potentially yielding benefits for conditions such as arthritis. A 2020 study titled, Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitors Alter Gut Microbiota and Ameliorate Collagen-Induced Arthritis, investigated the effects of acarbose treatment on mice with arthritis. Administering acarbose via drinking water, researchers observed notable changes in gut microbiota composition.

Mice treated with acarbose exhibited higher bacterial diversity and richness compared to untreated mice. Specifically, acarbose led to an elevation in Firmicutes, a bacterial group significantly reduced in mice with arthritis. Furthermore, acarbose increased levels of other bacterial groups like Oscillospira, Desulfovibrio, and Ruminococcus.

These alterations in gut microbiota composition, mediated by acarbose treatment, correlated with a decrease in the frequency of pro-inflammatory Th17 cells and an increase in anti-inflammatory Treg cells. Without delving too deeply into the technical details, Th17 and Treg cells are immune cells involved in modulating inflammation and arthritis severity. Th17 cells release pro-inflammatory molecules that exacerbate inflammation and tissue damage in arthritis, while Treg cells help counteract these effects by suppressing excessive immune responses and inflammation.

By favorably shifting the balance towards Treg cells, acarbose indirectly exerts anti-inflammatory properties, thereby improving arthritis symptoms. Overall, acarbose's influence on gut microbiota composition holds promise for managing arthritis and potentially other inflammatory conditions, offering a novel therapeutic approach to alleviate inflammation and improve overall health. [12]

Acarbose and Telomere Length

Telomere length stands as a key biological indicator of aging, representing the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes. As cells divide, telomeres gradually shorten until they reach a critical threshold known as the 'Hayflick limit,' prompting cellular senescence and contributing to aging processes. The inverse relationship between telomere length and aging underscores their significance in cellular health and longevity. [13]

Acarbose, by altering levels of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the body, may influence telomere length. Studies have elucidated the impact of acetic acid, increased by acarbose, on telomere elongation. In a recent yeast model study, researchers observed an increase in telomere length in the presence of acetic acid. This phenomenon was attributed to a reduction in the expression of Rap1 protein, a negative regulator of telomerase activity. Consequently, telomerase exhibited enhanced function, facilitating telomeric extension. [15]

However, the relationship between butyric acid, another SCFA affected by acarbose, and telomere length appears more nuanced. Research suggests that increased butyric acid levels, influenced by acarbose, may lead to telomere shortening. For instance, a study involving postmenopausal women demonstrated an association between dietary intake of short-to-medium chain fatty acids (SMFAs), including butyric acid, and decreased telomere length. [9]

Overall, while acarbose's modulation of SCFAs like acetic acid may contribute to telomere lengthening by enhancing telomerase activity, its impact on butyric acid levels may have contrasting effects. This intricate interplay underscores the multifaceted nature of aging processes and highlights the need for further research to elucidate the complex mechanisms underlying telomere dynamics and their relationship with SCFAs.


In delving into the multifaceted effects of acarbose, it becomes evident that its potential extends far beyond its conventional application in treating type 2 diabetes (T2D). Through its modulation of the gut microbiota, acarbose unveils a complex interplay between microbial communities and various aspects of health. Acarbose demonstrates a remarkable capacity to influence the composition of gut bacteria, fostering an environment conducive to the production of beneficial short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). This modulation not only impacts metabolic processes but also holds implications for immune function and overall well-being.

While elevated levels of certain SCFAs, such as acetic acid, appear to confer longevity benefits and mitigate inflammation, the relationship between acarbose and telomere length reveals a nuanced narrative. While some SCFAs may promote telomere elongation, others, like butyric acid, could potentially accelerate aging processes, underscoring the intricate dynamics at play.

Despite the complexities inherent in the relationship between acarbose, SCFAs, and biological aging, this exploration unveils promising avenues for further investigation. Acarbose emerges as a compelling candidate for broader therapeutic applications beyond T2D management, with its impact on the gut microbiota presenting opportunities to enhance overall health and longevity.


  • Acarbose's Traditional Role in T2D Management: Initially, Acarbose is presented in the context of its conventional use for controlling blood sugar levels in patients with Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), highlighting its mechanism as a glucosidase inhibitor that slows down the digestion of carbohydrates.

  • Beyond Glucose Control - Impact on Gut Health: The article then expands on Acarbose's effects beyond glucose management, specifically its significant influence on gut health. It delves into the critical role of the gut microbiota in overall health and how Acarbose benefits the gut ecosystem.

  • The Gut Microbiota as a Key Player in Health and Longevity: The complex role of the gut microbiota is explored, emphasizing its importance in metabolism, nutrient absorption, and immune function. The concept of gut dysbiosis and its link to various diseases highlights the microbiota's impact on health and aging.

  • Acarbose and the Modulation of the Gut Microbiome: Research findings are discussed, demonstrating how Acarbose modifies the gut microbiome composition, particularly by enhancing the abundance of beneficial SCFA-producing bacteria, and the implications of these changes for health and longevity.

  • Acarbose's Role in Extending Lifespan through SCFA Production: The article explores the connection between Acarbose-induced changes in the gut microbiome and increased production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are linked to improved health outcomes and potential lifespan extension.

  • Impact on Inflammatory Conditions and Immune Regulation: Further, the article discusses Acarbose's potential to influence other health aspects, such as reducing inflammation and altering immune cell dynamics, with a focus on its effects on conditions like arthritis.

  • Influence on Telomere Length and Aging Processes: It also touches upon the intriguing research into Acarbose's effect on telomere dynamics, a critical aspect of cellular aging, and how SCFAs may play a role in this process.


  1. Galicia-Garcia, U., Benito-Vicente, A., Jebari, S., Larrea-Sebal, A., Siddiqi, H., Uribe, K. B., Ostolaza, H., & Martín, C. (2020). Pathophysiology of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. International journal of molecular sciences, 21(17), 6275.  

  2. Zhang, X., Fang, Z., Zhang, C., Xia, H., Jie, Z., Han, X., Chen, Y., & Ji, L. (2017). Effects of Acarbose on the Gut Microbiota of Prediabetic Patients: A Randomized, Double-blind, Controlled Crossover Trial. Diabetes therapy: research, treatment, and education of diabetes and related disorders, 8(2), 293–307. 

  3. Jolly, S., & Bakshi, S. (2023, November 25). Healthspan Research Review: Exploring the pivotal role of gut dysbiosis in aging and Parkinson’s disease. Healthspan.

  4. Qin, J., Li, Y., Cai, Z., Li, S., Zhu, J., Zhang, F., Liang, S., Zhang, W., Guan, Y., Shen, D., Peng, Y., Zhang, D., Jie, Z., Wu, W., Qin, Y., Xue, W., Li, J., Han, L., Lu, D., Wu, P., … Wang, J. (2012). A metagenome-wide association study of gut microbiota in type 2 diabetes. Nature, 490(7418), 55–60.

  5. Zhang, X., Shen, D., Fang, Z., Jie, Z., Qiu, X., Zhang, C., Chen, Y., & Ji, L. (2013). Human gut microbiota changes reveal the progression of glucose intolerance. PloS one, 8(8), e71108.

  6. Dubourg, G., Lagier, J. C., Armougom, F., Robert, C., Audoly, G., Papazian, L., & Raoult, D. (2013). High-level colonization of the human gut by Verrucomicrobia following broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment. International journal of antimicrobial agents, 41(2), 149–155.

  7. Zhang, X., Han, Y., Huang, W., Jin, M., & Gao, Z. (2021). The influence of the gut microbiota on the bioavailability of oral drugs. Acta pharmaceutica Sinica. B, 11(7), 1789–1812.

  8. Smith, B. J., Miller, R. A., Ericsson, A. C., Harrison, D. C., Strong, R., & Schmidt, T. M. (2019). Changes in the gut microbiome and fermentation products concurrent with enhanced longevity in acarbose-treated mice. BMC microbiology, 19(1), 130.

  9.  Wu, B., Yan, J., Yang, J., Xia, Y., Li, D., Zhang, F., & Cao, H. (2022). Extension of the Life Span by Acarbose: Is It Mediated by the Gut Microbiota? Aging and disease, 13(4), 1005–1014.

  10. Wenzel, T. J., Gates, E. J., Ranger, A. L., & Klegeris, A. (2020). Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) alone or in combination regulate select immune functions of microglia-like cells. Molecular and cellular neurosciences, 105, 103493.

  11. Jolly, S. (2024, January 13). Healthspan Research Review: Exploring the pivotal role of gut dysbiosis in aging and Parkinson’s disease. Healthspan.

  12. Zhang L, Song P, Zhang X, Metea C, Schleisman M, Karstens L, Leung E, Zhang J, Xu Q, Liu Y, Asquith M and Chu C-Q (2020) Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitors Alter Gut Microbiota and Ameliorate Collagen-Induced Arthritis. Front. Pharmacol. 10:1684. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2019.01684

  13. Bakshi, S., & Mishra, N. (2023, November 10). Healthspan Research Review: Telomeres and the pursuit of extended lifespan. Healthspan.

  14. Romano G, Harari Y, Yehuda T, Podhorzer A, Rubinstein L, Shamir R, et al. (2013). Environmental stresses disrupt telomere length homeostasis. Plos Genet, 9:e1003721.

  15. Song, Y., You, N. C., Song, Y., Kang, M. K., Hou, L., Wallace, R., Eaton, C. B., Tinker, L. F., & Liu, S. (2013). Intake of small-to-medium-chain saturated fatty acids is associated with peripheral leukocyte telomere length in postmenopausal women. The Journal of Nutrition, 143(6), 907–914.


Stay Updated

Sign up for The Longevity Blueprint, a weekly newsletter from Healthspan analyzing the latest longevity research.

footer image