Researchers exposed laboratory mice to cigarette smoke and it caused them to have a marked rise in blood sugar, fat, and insulin levels and gain a lot of weight (American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism, September 30, 2014).
The second-hand smoke caused a high rise in blood levels of a fat called ceramide that prevents cells from responding to insulin to increase risk for diabetes (Lipids Health Dis, 2013 Jul 8;12:98). Insulin lowers blood sugar by driving sugar from the bloodstream into cells. When cells cannot respond to insulin, blood sugar levels rise. The pancreas responds by producing higher levels of insulin. High levels of insulin specifically make you fat by making you hungry so you eat more, converting the extra sugar to fat, and causing the fat to be stored in all the cells in your body.
The researchers then gave the smoke-exposed, fat mice myriocin, a drug that blocks ceramide. Their blood levels of fat, insulin and sugar dropped and they lost weight. This study shows that in mice, and perhaps also in humans,
• Second-hand smoke can lead to both weight gain and diabetes, and
• A drug that blocks ceramide can reverse the weight gain caused by the second-hand smoke.
• However, blocking ceramide did not prevent weight gain when the mice were fed a high-sugar diet. It is established that a high-sugar diet makes you fat and causes diabetes. These researchers are now trying to find a ceramide inhibitor that is safe for humans.
How Common is Second-Hand Smoke? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than one-third of children between six and 19 years old are overweight or obese, and that 20 percent are exposed to second-hand smoke daily. The American Cancer Society estimates that half of the U.S. population is exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke at least once a day, and 3,400 people die from it every year.
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