Fat in the Pancreas Can Help Prevent Diabetes

February 2, 2022
By Buzz Staff

In diabetes, this regulatory mechanism starts to break down either when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin or when the body’s tissues become resistant to the hormone’s effects. Over time, uncontrolled high blood sugar resulting from diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, strokes, and lower limb amputation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2019, diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths worldwide. This research may provide a possible explanation for the benefits of exercise and intermittent fasting as strategies to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes.

Findings from a new lab-based study suggest that fat stores in the pancreas may help maintain insulin secretion and slow the onset of diabetes. The study indicates that a cycle of fat storage in pancreas cells after mealtimes, followed by the breakdown of fat in the hours before the next meal, may help maintain insulin production.

Scientists have reached a consensus that high blood sugar levels damage beta cells in the pancreas — the cells that make insulin — but the part that fat plays is more controversial. More than 95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, which is largely the result of physical inactivity and excess body weight.

The scientists exposed human and rat beta cells to periods of excess sugar, with or without high fat levels. The research, led by scientists at the University of Geneva Medical Centre in Switzerland, appears in the journal Diabetologia.

However, an abundant supply of fat appeared to protect the beta cells’ insulin secretion against the effects of high sugar levels. “When cells are exposed to both too much sugar and too much fat, they store the fat in the form of droplets in anticipation of less prosperous times,” Lucie Oberhauser, Ph.D., first author of the study, explains. As expected, over time, high sugar levels reduced the cells’ ability to secrete insulin, compared with normal sugar levels.

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