Newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes tend to have one thing in common: obesity. Exactly how diet and obesity trigger diabetes has long been the subject of intense scientific research.
High levels of fat shut down a key enzyme that promotes glucose sensing in pancreatic beta cells — revealing a pathway implicated in the Type 2 diabetes epidemic
A new study led by Jamey D. Marth, director of the Center for Nanomedicine, a collaboration between UC Santa Barbara and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham), has revealed a pathway that links high-fat diets to a sequence of molecular events responsible for the onset and severity of diabetes. These findings were published online August 14 in the journal Nature Medicine.
In studies spanning mice and humans, Marth’s team discovered a pathway to disease that is activated in pancreatic beta cells, and then leads to metabolic defects in other organs and tissues, including the liver, muscle and adipose (fat). Together, this adds up to diabetes.
“We were initially surprised to learn how much the pancreatic beta cell contributes to the onset and severity of diabetes,” said Marth.
Diabetes & Obesity
Diabetes is a group of disorders characterized by chronic high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) due to the body’s failure to produce any or enough insulin to regulate high glucose levels. There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, which often occurs in children or adolescents, is caused by the body’s inability to make insulin or type 2 diabetes, which occurs as a result of the body’s inability to react properly to insulin (insulin resistance).
The epidemic of obesity-associated diabetes is a major crisis in modern societies, in which food is plentiful and exercise is optional.
Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent than type 1 diabetes and is therefore seen in roughly 90% of all diabetes cases. Type 2 diabetes is predominantly diagnosed after the age of forty, however, it is now being found in all age ranges, including children and adolescents.
The impact of diabetes goes beyond chronic hyperglycemia. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness (diabetic retinopathy), end stage kidney diseases (diabetic nephropathy) and non-traumatic lower extremity amputations (diabetic neuropathy) in working-age adults. People with diabetes are also two to four times more likely to experience cardiovascular complications and strokes.
There are many risk factors for type 2 diabetes such as age, race, pregnancy, stress, certain medications, genetics or family history, high cholesterol and obesity. However, the single best predictor of type 2 diabetes is overweight or obesity. Almost 90% of people living with type 2 diabetes are overweight or have obesity.