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Could Fat Slow The Onset Of Type 2 Diabetes?

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The study by Lucie Oberhauser and her colleagues at the University of Geneva tends to contradict the hypothesis according to which an excessively rich diet impairs the functioning of pancreatic cells and makes the regulation of blood sugar levels less efficient, a reality. which would lead to the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Thus, these researchers believe that fat does not necessarily worsen metabolic disease, and that it could play a protective role and delay its onset. They come to this finding after studying the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells.

By analyzing the cellular mechanisms at work, the research team discovered how a cycle of fat storage and release allowed cells to adapt to excess sugar., explains the University in a press release.

An unexpected biological mechanism

In detail, type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, with 90% of cases. It appears as a result of a dysfunction of the beta cells of the pancreas, responsible for secreting insulin. This malfunction disrupts the regulation of blood sugar levels and can cause several complications including the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and blood vessels.

We have studied the adaptations of human and murine beta cells to excess sugar or fat, says Professor Pierre Maechler, who led the work.

Differentiate the effects of fat and sugar

To distinguish the effect of fat from that of sugar, scientists exposed beta cells to excess sugar, excess fat, and then a combination of the two.

Not surprisingly, the toxicity of sugar has been confirmed. Beta cells exposed to high sugar secrete much less insulin than normal, note the researchers.

In addition, they also noticed that when cells are exposed to both a surplus of sugar and a surplus of fat, they store the fat in anticipation of less good times in the form of droplets (see photo).

Pancreatic beta cells seen under a microscope.

Pancreatic beta cells seen under a microscope. The white circles in the center of the cell correspond to fat storage droplets.

Photo: UNIGE / Maechler Laboratory

Very surprisingly, we have shown that this stock of fat, instead of worsening the situation, on the contrary made it possible to restore insulin secretion close to normal. The adaptation of beta cells to certain fats would thus help maintain normal blood sugar levels., believes Lucie Oberhauser, first author of the research.

The researchers also established that the fat droplets did not constitute static reserves, but that they were the site of a dynamic cycle of storage and release.

In addition, it is thanks to the molecules of fat released that the beta cells adapt to the excess sugar and maintain a secretion of insulin close to the normal, they note.

This release of fat is not really a problem as long as the body uses it for energy., argues Pierre Maechler.

To avoid developing diabetes, it would be to give this beneficial cycle a chance to be active, for example by maintaining regular physical activity.

A quote from Pierre Maechler

The objective is now to determine by what mechanism this released fat stimulates the secretion of insulin. This breakthrough will perhaps allow to discover a therapeutic lever making it possible to delay the onset of diabetes, conclude the researchers.

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