Study reveals how high-fat foods impact diabetes and metabolic syndrome

A University of Michigan Health System study provides new clues about the health-damaging molecular changes set in motion by eating high-fat foods.

A better understanding of the body's response to indulgent eating could lead to new approaches for treating and . High-fat foods can contribute to , which increases the risk for developing .

The researchers learned a key called Bcl10 is needed for the free fatty acids – which are found in high fat food and stored in body fat -- to impair insulin action and lead to abnormally high blood sugar.

In the laboratory study, mice deficient in Bcl10 were protected from developing insulin resistance when fed a high-fat diet. The findings will be published May 31 in Cell Reports.

Insulin helps control blood sugar, but insulin resistance can lead to the abnormally high blood sugar levels that are the hallmark of diabetes. Insulin resistance can occur as part of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

As millions of Americans become overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome are on the rise.

"The study also underscores how very short-term changes in diet such as high-fat eating for only a few days, perhaps even less, can induce a state of insulin resistance," says senior study author Peter C. Lucas, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Researchers began by investigating how free fatty acids induce inflammation and impair insulin action in the liver. It's thought the liver is a major target for the harmful effects of free fatty acids.

In the liver, undergo metabolism to produce diacylglycerols prior to inducing the inflammatory response. Diacylglycerols also activate NF-kB signaling which has been linked with cancer, metabolic and vascular diseases.

The team of researchers concluded that Bcl10 is required for fatty acids to induce inflammation and . In the study, Bcl10-deficient mice showed significant improvement in regulation of blood sugar.

"We were surprised to learn that Bcl10, a protein previously known for its critical role in immune cell response to infection, also plays a critical role in the liver's response to fatty acid," says Lucas.. "This is an example of nature co-opting a mechanism fundamental to the immune system and using it in a metabolic organ, in this case, the liver."

"These findings reveal a new and important role for Bcl10 and could lead to novel ideas for treating patients with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes," says co-senior author Linda M. McAllister-Lucas, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatric hemotology/oncology.

More information: "Bcl10 Links Saturated Fat Overnutrition with Hepatocellular NF-kB Activation and Insulin Resistance," Cell Reports (2012), doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2012.04.006, May 31, 2012.

Related Stories

Fatty liver may herald impending type 2 diabetes

Feb 24, 2011

A recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) found that individuals with fatty liver were five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than t ...

Recommended for you

Diabetes and Thanksgiving can live in harmony

Nov 25, 2014

As you may know, November is National Diabetes Month. If you, a loved one, or a Thanksgiving guest have diabetes or prediabetes, this column is dedicated to you, as you may be wondering how to enjoy one of the most food-laden ...

Does a yogurt a day keep diabetes away?

Nov 24, 2014

A high intake of yogurt has been found to be associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to research published in open access journal BMC Medicine. This highlights the importance of hav ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.