With a growing statistic of approximately 26 million diabetics in America and 350 million diabetics worldwide, diabetes prevention continues to be a primary concern for many medical practitioners.
Although doctors have long observed the link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes, how diet and obesity trigger diabetes had not been determined. However, a recent study conducted by UCSB and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute uncovered the molecular biology that may finally explain the relationship between Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
In healthy individuals, pancreatic beta cells monitor glucose in the bloodstream and then secrete insulin to keep glucose at normal levels. The results of the study suggest that the onset of Type 2 diabetes in obese individuals arises from a malfunction in their pancreatic beta cells caused by a high fat diet.
The UCSB/Sanford-Burnham study demonstrated the effects of a high fat diet on beta cell function in mice. The study found that a diet high in fat caused a decrease in the production of the enzyme GnT-4a. The lack of this enzyme prevents beta cells from sensing and responding to glucose in the bloodstream. However, if the production of this enzyme is preserved, the onset of diabetes can be prevented even in obese animals. In light of these findings, scientists are now exploring methods to augment beta cell and GnT-4a activity in humans to prevent and possibly cure Type 2 diabetes.
Lead researcher and director of UCSB’s Center for Nanomedicine, Jamey Marth, said she was surprised at the significant role of pancreatic beta cells in causing diabetes.
“The observation that beta cell malfunction significantly contributes to multiple disease signs, including insulin resistance, was unexpected,” Marth said. “We were initially surprised to learn how much the pancreatic beta cell contributes to the onset and severity of diabetes.”
Presently, doctors focus primarily on informing their patients about how to effectively prevent diabetes, since there is currently no cure for the disease. Although diabetes has proved a formidable health problem for Americans in particular, diabetes prevention knowledge brings us closer to ending the health complications associated with the disease for future generations.
“Now that we know more fully how states of over-nutrition can lead to Type 2 diabetes, we can see more clearly how to intervene,” Marth said.
So Gauchos, the take home message is this: Don’t stuff too much junk in your trunk to enjoy a longer, healthier life and look good doing it.