Most people know that when someone is overweight, he or she has a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. However, there was no biological explanation until recently.
In June 2014, scientists discovered a molecular link that may shine a light on the connection between obesity and diabetes. The team from the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) in Singapore found that a key protein, which helps the body control glucose, is missing in many obese people.
The protein is called NUCKS, an important regulator of insulin signaling in cells. The scientists demonstrated that endocrine cells without the ability to make the protein had impaired insulin signaling. Why? NUCKS becomes downregulated, or the genes that code for the protein are more or less inactive in obese individuals.
The researchers suggested that obese individuals who lack NUCKS develop insulin resistance and lose the ability to effectively regulate their glucose. As a result, blood sugar levels increase, which makes those people more vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes. The findings were published in the journal Cell Reports.
Scientists said this discovery will likely lead to new research projects to identify drugs and lifestyle changes that can restore NUCKS to normal levels.
"The world is paying a lot of attention to diabetes," said Dr. Vinay Tergaonkar, principal investigator at IMCB and the lead scientist for the study. "Every year, billions of dollars are spent on metabolic diseases and a big part of the expenditure goes to the drugs for diabetes. The findings in our study have immense therapeutic implications as they will be applicable not only to diabetes in obesity, but also to diabetes as a whole."
The rates of both diabetes and obesity have been rising over the years, so these findings may prove meaningful in future diabetes care.
To learn more about diabetes and weight loss:
It's Never Too Late: Weight Loss at Any Age is Beneficial
10 Healthy Ways to Drop a Few Pounds with Diabetes
Reading Labels and Portion Control