When thinking about the body type of individuals with Type II diabetes, people often envision obese men and women. Well, researchers from the University of Utah are suggesting that skinny people may have just as much of a chance, or an even greater chance of developing this disease that affects about 29 million Americans today.
Type II diabetes is a disease in which a person’s body cannot use insulin properly in order to maintain healthy blood-glucose levels. Although an excess of adipose tissue can predispose an individual to this disease, the research done in Utah suggests that the accumulation of ceramides, which are toxic fat metabolites, have a greater impact on the chances of a person becoming diabetic. When a person overeats food high in fat content, the extra fat consumed can be stored as triglycerides, used for energy, or converted to ceramides. The accumulation of ceramides in a person’s adipocytes negatively affects a person’s ability to properly respond to insulin and burn calories.
Over the course of three years, research was done on both mice and human subjects in which the number of ceramides were observed in both populations. The results from both groups linked higher numbers of ceramides to a higher risk of developing diabetes. They also observed that if a subject proved to have less ceramides, they were actually protected from being insulin resistant. A group of obese individuals from Singapore, some with and some without type II diabetes, were observed after gastric bypass surgery, as well. What they found was that those with type II diabetes had more ceramides than those who did not have the disease. These findings suggest that the accumulation of ceramides in adipose tissue is actually a better indicator of a person’s predisposition for obtaining this Type II diabetes, rather than if a person is obese or not. Accumulating ceramides is something that the researchers believe some people are genetically wired to do. The next step of their research will be to determine which gene is responsible for this unfortunate mutation.