This week, a major breakthrough article from Johns Hopkins implies that most cases of type II diabetes could be cured by reducing the amount of fat in the liver and that some diabetics may have to rid themselves of most of the fat from the rest of their bodies before they will get enough fat out of their liver (Cell Reports, June 6, 2016).
Your cells need both sugar and fat for energy. You have an almost infinite amount of fat in your body, but only enough sugar in your bloodstream to supply your brain with energy for three minutes, so your liver constantly releases sugar into your bloodstream. Your liver can only store enough sugar to last 12 hours at rest and for about 70 minutes when you exercise vigorously. When you need more sugar than what is stored in your muscles and liver, your liver can make new sugar from fat and protein, a process called gluconeogenesis.
This brilliant study gives us the new information that when your liver is damaged, your gut and kidneys can also make sugar from fat and protein. Furthermore, the liver has to break down fats or it will fill with fat which damages your liver and you can die from a fatty liver. In this study, blocking the liver from making new sugar caused it to fill up with fat. Excess fat in the liver was the cause of the high blood sugar and resultant diabetes. When your liver gets too full of fat, the liver dies, which can kill you.
How a Fatty liver Causes Most Cases of Diabetes
When blood sugar rises too high, the sugar is funneled to the liver which converts most of the excess sugar to a type of fat called triglycerides. Some of the fat is converted to energy, some passes back into the bloodstream and a large amount ends up stored in the liver to cause a fatty liver.
Your liver is supposed to protect you from developing high blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels rise too high, the pancreas releases insulin which lowers high blood sugar levels by driving sugar from the bloodstream into the liver. However, if the liver is full of fat, it does not accept the sugar from the bloodstream and blood sugar levels remain high to cause diabetes and cell damage.
Details of this Study
Your cells burn mostly sugar and fat for energy. Diabetics have difficulty getting sugar into cells, so they are forced to use more fat for energy. An enzyme called Carnitine Pamitoyl Transferase 2 (CPT2) helps diabetics move fat into the mitochondria inside cells so they can get more energy from fat to replace the loss of energy from less sugar entering cells. Indeed CPT2 is elevated in the cells of diabetics.
In this study, mice lacking CPT2 were fed a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet similar to the commercial Atkins diet. They ate butter at every meal. In spite of eating a massive amount of fat, they could not get enough fat to meet all their energy needs. They used up all of the available fat in their bodies, except in their livers. They died with big bellies and livers full of fat, but emaciated and with empty fat cells throughout the rest of their bodies. With the exception of the liver, all the other cells in the body used up their fat and sent it in the bloodstream to the liver. The liver took up all the fat, but it couldn't use the fat for energy, so it accumulated large amounts of fat inside the liver cells which caused the liver to die, so the mice also died.
What this Study Can Mean for You
Like the mice, when you get excess fat in your liver, you develop high blood sugar levels and then diabetes. As more and more fat accumulates in your liver, your liver dies and so do you. Forty percent of all North Americans are diabetic or will become diabetic, and it is largely a disease caused by a faulty lifestyle. Drugs may help to control diabetes, but no drugs available today can cure diabetes; it can be cured only by lifestyle changes. A diabetic who loses weight gets some fat out of the fat cells throughout the body, including the liver. Those who clear their liver of excess fat with a small amount of weight loss may become non-diabetic. However, many diabetics, particularly those who have had diabetes for several years, must lose large amounts of body fat before they clear fat from their liver. These people will not be cured until they lose a lot of weight and become thin to get enough of the fat out of their liver to become non-diabetic. Please re-read my recent reports on Who Gets High Blood Sugar after Meals? and How Exercise Prevents and Treats Diabetes
If you are overweight or are already pre-diabetic or Type II diabetic (non-insulin dependent), check with your doctor to see if you may benefit from Intermittent Fasting to help you lose weight permanently.