Researchers link Western diet to vascular damage and prediabetes

October 31, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Could short-term exposure to the average American diet increase one's risk for developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease? According to a recent study funded by the American Heart Association (AHA), researchers from New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) provide compelling evidence to support this hypothesis.

With the obesity epidemic worsening in the United States, many researchers have sought to connect and cardiovascular diseases to the consumption of the American , also known as the "western diet." Categorized by excessively high levels of fat and refined sugars, the diet has been shown to cause metabolic syndrome (prediabetes) in male rats. Now, research from NYITCOM has proven that the western diet can cause equally unsettling results among females, a population which possesses protective hormones aiding in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

For five months, researchers Maria Alicia Carrillo Sepulveda, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biomedical Sciences at NYITCOM, and Benjamin Kramer, fourth-year medical student, exposed the animals to a meal supplement resembling the ingredients of the typical American diet, regularly feeding them pellets with an appearance and scent similar to fast-food French fries. Following this short-term exposure, the researchers discovered that the rats' blood vessels displayed damage and increased blood pressure, symptoms common among diabetics. Surprisingly, the rats developed approximately four times more abdominal fat, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, than their control group counterparts, which received a normal maintenance chow diet.

Perhaps most alarming is that while vascular damage and increased blood pressure were clearly detected, the female rats did not appear outwardly obese, and had not yet experienced the typical warning signs presented by diabetes, such as an increase in blood glucose (>125mg/dL) and hemoglobin A1c levels (>6.4%). The researchers further confirmed the negative effects of the western diet among female rodents and also identified that prediabetes could develop long before the traditional biomarkers are found to be abnormal.

"Our findings suggest that short-term exposure to the western diet can put individuals at risk for developing vascular damage long before the tell-tale signs of diabetes are present. This may explain why some diabetics who successfully manage their blood glucose still experience other cardiovascular diseases, like hypertension, even while receiving treatment," said Carrillo-Sepulveda, whose work also suggests that the western diet may cause persistent modifications in vascular proteins.

Kramer, who received the 2017 American Heart Association Student Scholarship in Cardiovascular Disease, noted that the study reinforces the value of an osteopathic medical education, which trains physicians to consider the overarching consequences of disease, and its impact on the care and lifestyle of a patient, rather than simply treating an ailment.

"This experiment reminds us that focusing solely on one aspect of disease does not adequately tell the complete story of one's health," argues Kramer. "Without the presence of traditional biomarkers, there were still multiple indications suggesting the onset of prediabetes, and we would have been unaware of dire medical conditions had we simply been looking for the conventional signs."

Making a case for physicians to address the cultural environment around their patients in order to fully treat them, Kramer notes, "Translating the study results to potential patients, the problem is the food our patients are eating. If we can educate and encourage them to make better food choices, we can play a key role in the prevention of the development of diabetes."

Continuing the investigation, Carrillo Sepulveda aims to explore the hypothesis known as "metabolic memory," a concept that suggests that despite healthy eating habits and physical activity later in life, exposure to the at a young age can affect one's disposition to diabetes.

Explore further: Diabetes drug may also offer vascular protection

Related Stories

Diabetes drug may also offer vascular protection

August 18, 2016
Obesity and Type 2 diabetes are associated with vascular stiffening and the development of cardiovascular disease. Obese and diabetic premenopausal women are most at risk - even more than men of the same age who have similar ...

Diabetes drug prevents stiffening of heart muscle in obese mouse model

June 5, 2017
Overconsumption of a Western diet high in fats and refined sugars has contributed to a global increase in obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Obese and diabetic premenopausal women are more at risk of developing heart disease—even ...

Cinnamon may lessen damage of high-fat diet in rats

May 6, 2017
Cinnamon may lessen the risk of cardiovascular damage of a high-fat diet by activating the body's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory systems and slowing the fat-storing process, according to a preliminary animal study presented ...

Junk food causes similar high blood sugar levels as type 2 diabetes

May 10, 2016
A junk food diet can cause as much damage to the kidney as diabetes, according to a study published in Experimental Physiology.

Study supports lower cut-off point for defining prediabetes

November 23, 2016
The health risks and mortality associated with prediabetes seem to increase at the lower cut-off point for blood sugar levels recommended by some guidelines, finds a large study published in The BMJ today.

Liraglutide may help nondiabetic overweight and obese adults lose weight and lower risks

April 4, 2016
For people with prediabetes who are overweight or obese, adding 3.0 mg of liraglutide for three years to a diet and exercise plan may lead to major health improvements, new industry-sponsored research suggests. The results ...

Recommended for you

Pre-diabetes discovery marks step towards precision medicine

November 20, 2017
Researchers from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre have identified three specific molecules that accurately indicate insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes - a major predictor of metabolic syndrome, the collection ...

Scientists reverse diabetes in a mouse model using modified blood stem cells

November 15, 2017
Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have successfully reversed type 1 diabetes in a mouse model by infusing blood stem cells pre-treated to produce more of a protein called PD-L1, which is deficient in mice (and people) ...

Pregnancy-related conditions taken together leave moms—and dads—at risk

November 14, 2017
Research has already shown that women who develop either diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy are at risk of getting type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease years later. Now, a new study from a team ...

Study reveals how a very low calorie diet can reverse type 2 diabetes

November 9, 2017
In a new study, a Yale-led research team uncovers how a very low calorie diet can rapidly reverse type 2 diabetes in animal models. If confirmed in people, the insight provides potential new drug targets for treating this ...

Targeting a microRNA shows potential to enhance effectiveness of diabetes drugs

November 7, 2017
Over the past 15 years, University of Alabama at Birmingham endocrinologist Anath Shalev, M.D., has unraveled a crucial biological pathway that malfunctions in diabetes.

Researchers link Western diet to vascular damage and prediabetes

October 31, 2017
Could short-term exposure to the average American diet increase one's risk for developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease? According to a recent study funded by the American Heart Association (AHA), researchers from New ...

0 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.