Saturated fatty acids lead to mitochondrial dysfunction and insulin resistance

Excessive levels of certain saturated fatty acids cause mitochondria to fragment, leading to insulin resistance in skeletal muscle, a precursor of type 2 diabetes, according to a paper in the January issue of the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology. This is the first time mitochondrial fragmentation has been implicated in insulin resistance, says corresponding author Yau-Sheng Tsai, of the College of Medicine, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan, Republic of China.

Mitochondria are the intracellular machines that turn sugar into energy, and skeletal muscle is packed with them. Normally, cells respond to insulin, a hormone, by importing glucose from the bloodstream. is characterized by insulin resistance, a cellular impairment in .

The new research offers an explanation for this phenomenon. “Disruption of mitochondrial dynamics may underlie the pathogenesis of muscle insulin resistance in obesity and type 2 diabetes,” says Tsai. That explanation suggests a hypothetical treatment. “Manipulating mitochondrial morphology may provide a novel therapeutic strategy for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes,” says Tsai. In the study, the research showed that inhibiting mitochondrial fission in mouse models reduced the insulin resistance, he says.

The study also supports previous research suggesting that reducing saturated fats in the diet would reduce insulin resistance, says Tsai. “It has been well documented that can lead to in humans and rodents.” Palmitate, a particularly harmful saturated fatty acid, “is very abundant in lard, butter, and margarine,” says Tsai. 

“Most studies of mitochondria and diabetes have focused on mitochondrial quantity, and they all agree that increasing mitochondrial biogenesis does help mitochondrial function and cellular metabolism,” says Tsai. “Our study showed that maintaining the balance of mitochondrial dynamics is also important for mitochondria to maintain normal function.”

More information: H.-F. Jheng, et al., 2012. Mitochonrial fission contributes to mitochondrial dysfunction and insulin resistance in skeletal muscle. Mol. Cell. Biol. 32:309-319

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Power-boosting signal in muscle declines with age

Feb 06, 2007

As people age, they may have to exercise even harder to get the benefits afforded to younger folk. That's the suggestion of a report in the February issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, published by Cell Press, showing that a ...

Recommended for you

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
not rated yet Jan 20, 2012
palmitic acid has been a suspected bad actor for over 50 yrs. This report seems to define why.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (12) Jan 20, 2012
Were the data collected with a low sugar/carb diet?
sstritt
not rated yet Jan 20, 2012
Were the data collected with a low sugar/carb diet?

My guess is no.
ryggesogn2
1.3 / 5 (13) Jan 20, 2012
Palmitate, a particularly harmful saturated fatty acid, is very abundant in lard, butter, and margarine, says Tsai.


Lard and butter, natural fats, don't seem to cause much harm in a low sugar/carb diet.
Callippo
not rated yet Jan 20, 2012
Palmitate is a term for the salts and esters of palmitic acid. As its name indicates, it is a major component of the oil from palm trees (palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil).
ryggesogn2
1.3 / 5 (13) Jan 20, 2012
Indian cooking uses copious amounts of ghee (butter) and coconut oil.
sstritt
not rated yet Jan 21, 2012
Indian cooking uses copious amounts of ghee (butter) and coconut oil.

Seriously- 7 people rated this statement of FACT a 1? WTF?
YawningDog
not rated yet Jan 21, 2012
This is state sponsered "science". It has more to do with a political agenda than uncovering facts. We can rell more about their findings when we know the source of their funding. It's sad that scientific research has decended to such depths.