People who are overweight or obese have a significantly increased risk of developing diabetes, but exactly how that happens is not well understood.
In a study from Washington University in St. Louis, scientists found how excess weight can contribute to diabetes and may provide researchers with a target to help prevent or delay diabetes in some of those at risk.
They found that many people with elevated levels of insulin—an early marker of diabetes risk—also have defects in an enzyme important to the processing of a key fatty acid from the diet.
When a person has too much body fat, it signals beta cells in the pancreas to secrete more insulin.
When insulin levels become elevated and remain high, the body can become resistant to insulin, and eventually the beta cells that secrete insulin can fail, leading to diabetes.
In the study, the team examined human tissue samples and found that the overproduction of insulin involves a process called palmitoylation. This is the process by which cells attach the fatty acid palmitate to proteins.
Thousands of human proteins can be attached to palmitate, but the researchers found that when this fatty acid isn’t removed from proteins in beta cells, diabetes is the end result.
Examining tissue samples from people who were thin or overweight, and with and without diabetes, the researchers found that the people with diabetes were deficient in an enzyme that removes palmitate from beta cells.
The research team also genetically engineered a mouse that was deficient in the enzyme called APT1, an enzyme responsible for palmitate removal from proteins. The engineered mice went on to develop diabetes.
Because impaired APT1 function contributed to diabetes risk, the researchers worked with the university’s Center for Drug Discovery to screen and identify compounds that can increase the activity of the APT1 enzyme.
Although the new findings identifying APT1 as a target are an important step, the team explained that APT1 is only one treatment target among many.
If you care about weight loss, please read studies about supplement that can help healthy obese people lose weight , and avocado may help reduce inflammation in overweight people.
For more information about health, please see recent studies that blueberries strongly benefit people with metabolic syndrome, and results showing vitamin D could improve blood pressure in people with diabetes.
The study was conducted by Clay F. Semenkovich et al and published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
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