Type 2 diabetes affects one in 13 adults on the planet. This is approximately 400 million people, it is expected that by 2045 this disease will affect 700 million. It’s all about lifestyle: people began to move less, consume more carbohydrates, sugar and fats, processed meats, fast food, less vegetables and fruits. In Russia, type 2 diabetes affects 4 million people.
Type 2 diabetes develops when the body loses sensitivity to insulin, a hormone secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas. That is why this disease is also called insulin-dependent. Back in the 70s of the last century, the theory of lipotoxicity was put forward: according to which fat begins to accumulate in non-adipose tissue, for example, in the pancreas, liver and heart. Gradually, the body loses the ability to adequately respond to incoming glucose.
Although the relationship between the development of diabetes and fat has been convincingly shown in many studies, what exactly happens to the pancreas was not fully understood. In addition, it was necessary to elucidate the toxic role of sugar in this process.
To distinguish the effects of fat from sugar, the scientists exposed pancreatic beta cells to both, and a combination of the two. It turned out that under the influence of a large amount of sugar, beta cells secreted less insulin than usual.
“When cells are exposed to too much sugar or fat, they store fat in droplets in anticipation of good times,” explains Lucy Oberhauser, lead author of the study. “Surprisingly, we have shown that this fat storage does not worsen the situation, but allows insulin secretion to be restored to near normal levels.”
At the same time, fat drops are not a strategic reserve that the body accumulates and does not consume without special need. They are constantly used as a source of energy, at any opportunity, for example, physical activity. Due to this, beta cells adapt to excess sugar and can maintain near-normal insulin levels.
The discovery could help develop strategies for people with prediabetes to delay the onset of the disease. Scientists believe that it is important to allow fat droplets in the pancreas to form and be used up, for example, through high physical activity.