New research has indicated that a high fat diet may be a possible cause of the onset of type 2 diabetes. For a long time there has been a known connection between obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes but the relationship at a biological level has not been understood until now.
The research found that increased fat levels acts to increase insulin resistance (the body stops responding to insulin to blood sugar levels rise) and damage to the pancreatic beta cells (which release insulin).
Severe obesity causes the pancreatic beta cells to burn out, or in scientific terms “nuclear exclusion and reduced expression of the transcription factors FOXA2 and HNF1A in beta cells“.
When fat levels increase the enzyme GnT-4a is affected. This enzyme responds to rising blood sugar levels to manage insulin production. If this enzyme is disrupted then the body reduces the efficiency of insulin production. In the cases studied high fat diets lead to a disruption with 2 proteins, FOXA2 and HNF1A, which a partly responsible for the creation of the GnT-4a enzyme.
So in short, increase body fat reduces the function of the pancreas which leads to a failure of the body to manage blood sugar levels.
A Cure For Type 2 Diabetes?
The researchers are currently confident that this avenue of research could lead to an eventual cure of diabetes. One idea is that increasing GnT-4a levels through medical intervention could prevent type 2 diabetes from starting. More research is certainly required in this area.
Health Advice – Diet and Exercise
However, for the time being health advice remains that same – eat a healthy and well balanced diet, limit saturated fat, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. This will ward off diabetes in most people.
This research managed to reinforce the already known connection between obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes and it also provides some insights into possible ways that the disease can be prevented or even cured in future years. For now it just adds to the growing volume of evidence which tells us that maintaining a healthy body weight and getting regular exercise will help us to stay fit and healthy.
Type 2 diabetes is a degenerative disease and once you develop it you have to live with it for the rest of your life. Although it can often be managed well with strict diet and exercise during the early stages, the problem is always there and any lapse in your lifestyle can lead to raised glucose levels and subsequent damage.
The biggest problem of type 2 diabetes is that it is often not diagnosed until the damage has been done.
The research was published in Nature Medicine and carried out by researchers from the University of California–Santa Barbara and RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Saitama, Japan. The lead researcher was Dr Jamey Marth.
“Pathway to diabetes through attenuation of pancreatic beta cell glycosylation and glucose transport” by Kazuaki Ohtsubo, Mark Z Chen, Jerrold M Olefsky & Jamey D Marth. Nature Medicine (2011) doi:10.1038/nm.2414. Abstract