What’s the connection between obesity and diabetes?

A paper in the Journal of Cell Metabolism (March 2005), shows how being overweight can cause diabetes. Being overweight fills your fat cells so they can’t store much more fat. Then the body stores fat in muscles and liver. This causes muscles to produce a chemical called PPAR-Alpha which causes muscles cells to bring in and burn more fat, which prevents muscles from using sugar for energy. So blood sugar levels rise. The fat in muscle cells also blocks insulin receptors from grabbing onto insulin which prevents insulin from driving sugar into cells. This drives blood sugar levels even higher.

Daniel P. Kelly, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Research at the Washington University in St Louis, genetically engineered two different types of mice: one type that made extra PPAR-alpha in their muscles and another that lacked that molecule. They found that mice that overproduce PPAR-alpha become diabetic even though they are thin, because the muscle cells can burn only fat for energy, which prevents muscle cells from using sugar. This causes blood sugar levels to rise very high and the mice to become diabetic. On the other hand, mice who did not make PPAR-alpha grew very fat, but did not develop diabetes. If the scientists could make a drug to block PPAR- alpha, perhaps they could prevent diabetes. This research explains why the majority of people who develop diabetics are also obese.

March 25, 2006

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