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Type 2 Diabetes Risk Linked to Buildup of Toxic Fat Metabolites

Type 2 Diabetes Risk Linked to Buildup of Toxic Fat Metabolites

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  • A toxic class of fat metabolites called ceramides may increase a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, claims a new study.
  • High levels of ceramide in the adipose tissue impair the body’s response to insulin.
  • People with healthy body weight are also at high risk for diabetes when their genes trigger ceramide accumulation in the body.

An individual with a healthy body weight could develop diabetes, but an obese person may not. Scientists have been conducting researches to find the answer. A team of international scientists has found an answer to that riddle. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases among those who have accumulated a toxic class of fat metabolites known as ceramides.

What are Ceramides?

Ceramides are fat metabolites found in the adipose tissue. People who consume more calories produce excess fatty acids that can be either burned for energy or stored in the body as triglycerides. But in some people, those fatty acids are turned into ceramides.


Type 2 Diabetes Risk Linked to Buildup of Toxic Fat Metabolites

Ceramides hinder nutrients absorption, impairs the way body responds to insulin and affect calorie expenditure. In the current study, researchers showed how the buildup of ceramides prevents normal function of adipose tissue in mice.

"These toxic fat impact the way the body handles nutrients. They impair the way the body responds to insulin, and also how it burns calories," said Scott Summers, Ph.D., lead author of the study, chairman of the University of Utah Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology.

The study was led by scientists at the University of Utah College of Health. The researchers found that among obese patients receiving gastric bypass surgery in Singapore, ceramide levels predicted diabetes risk better than excess body weight. The study found that obese patients who did not have diabetes had less ceramide accumulation than those who were diagnosed with the disease.

When ceramides are accumulated, the adipose tissue stops working and fat enters the vasculature or heart and causes damage to other peripheral tissues. But the exact mechanism of how ceramides damage the body is unknown.

Ceramides and Risk of Diabetes

The study conducted in mice analyzed the impact of ceramides. The researchers added excess ceramides to fat cells and found that it caused the mice to become unresponsive to insulin and impaired their ability to burn calories. High levels of ceramides made the mice more susceptible to diabetes and fatty liver disease.  

The researchers also found that mouse with low levels of ceramides were protected from insulin resistance, which is the first sign of diabetes. The findings of the study show that high ceramide levels may increase diabetes risk and low levels could protect against the condition.

The researchers noted that some people are more likely to convert excess calories into ceramides than others. This study suggests that even skinny people are likely to develop diabetes or fatty liver disease if genes trigger ceramide accumulation, said Bhagirath Chaurasia, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Utah and the lead author of the study.

"Some Asian countries have a higher diabetes rate than the United States even though the obesity rate is relatively low. Some people are just not made to deal with dietary fat. It's not just how much you eat because some people can eat a lot and they just store all the fat effectively and remain healthy," said Summers.

Impact of Ceramides on the Adipose Tissue

Adipose tissue is of three types - white, brown and beige adipose tissue. The brown adipose tissue burns fat to generate heat. White adipose tissue is the bad type of fat. Beige adipose tissue is a type of white fat that changes to brown when the body needs to produce heat or energy. The adipose tissue loses the characteristics of brown fat when ceramides are accumulated. Then the brown fat is converted to white fat and cause diseases.

The research team conducted a study in 2007 and proved that inhibition of ceramide synthesis in mice prevented the development of diabetes and fatty liver disease. With the findings of the current research, the team is now searching for genetic mutations that lead to accumulation of ceramides, contributing to type 2 diabetes and obesity.

"By blocking ceramide production, we might be able to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes or other metabolic conditions, at least in some people. Knowing how problematic ceramide accumulation is inside adipose tissue will help researchers focus on that specific problem," said Chaurasia.

The study is published in Cell Metabolism.

References :
  1. Diabetes risk linked to 'toxic fat' - (https://www.eurekalert.org/emb_releases/2016-11/uouh-drl102816.php)

Source: Medindia

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