New research is suggesting Type 2 diabetes may be caused by fat accumulation in the pancreas, and can be reversed by removing this build up.
Type 2 diabetes affects up to 9% of the global population, and is a huge medical burden. In contrast to Type 1, in which the patient's own immune system destroys insulin producing cells, Type 2 begins with insulin resistance and ends with destruction of insulin producing cells. Both produce damaging fluctuating glucose levels that can lead to life threatening conditions.
A unique marker
In a new trial, Type 2 diabetic patients were all found to have increased levels of pancreatic fat. Obese individuals who did not have diabetes, curiously did not show this specific fatty accumulation. It seemed like pancreatic fat was a specific marker for diabetic patients.
After comparing a group of patients including 18 diabetics and 9 'normal' patients, who had undergone gastric surgery for weight loss, both were found to have lost around 13% of their body weight. But more importantly, while both groups had pancreatic fat, only the diabetic patients with increased, excess levels lost fat from the pancreas.
After this weight loss, insulin production returned to normal
For people with Type 2 diabetes, losing weight allows them to drain excess fat out of the pancreas and allows function to return to normal"
What was even more eye-opening, was that it appeared losing only 1 gram of fat from the pancreas was enough to make a huge impact. The research suggested Type 2 diabetes may well be caused by an accumulation of fat in the pancreas, and that individual tolerances define how much is required to trigger diabetes .
"So if you ask how much weight you need to lose to make your diabetes go away, the answer is one gram! But that gram needs to be fat from the pancreas. At present the only way we have to achieve this is by calorie restriction by any means -- whether by diet or an operation"
While this research is intriguing, and opens the door to pancreatic surgery to siphon the harmful fat from this region, it's very early days. The finding is potentially important, but the sample size was very small and we need more confirmation before a definitive link is established.
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