Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Obesity Doesn't Always Spur Diabetes

Hormone May Help Prevent Diabetes in Some Cases of Extreme Obesity, Lab Tests Show
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 23, 2007 -- Scientists may have found a loophole in the link between obesity and diabetes.

A new study shows that some extremely obese mice metabolically resemble much skinnier mice.

The key is a hormone called adiponectin, according to the researchers, who included Philipp Scherer, PhD, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Scherer's team studied genetically engineered mice that lacked leptin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite. Without leptin, the mice binged on chow; packing on extra weight.

But despite what you might expect, the mice that gained the most weight actually had the best metabolism and were least likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

"The message isn't that it's good to be obese, but that expanded fat mass, when stored in the right places, can help prevent diabetes and reduce the risk of heart disease," Scherer says in a news release.

The findings appear in today's online edition of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Obesity Experiment

Some of the mice also had higher-than-normal levels of the hormone adiponectin, which controls sensitivity to insulin.

The mice with extra adiponectin gained the most weight. They became morbidly obese, even though they didn't eat more than mice with normal adiponectin levels.

However, the mice with extra adiponectin were more sensitive to insulin than the other mice, lowering their odds of developing type 2 diabetes. They also had better cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

In short, the mice with extra adiponectin were beyond obese, but their extreme obesity didn't bog down their metabolism.

Why? It may be a chain reaction from extra adiponectin, according to the study.

Hormone Help

Scherer's team took a close look at how the mice stored their fat.

The mice with extra adiponectin added lots of little fat cells to their fatty tissue. But the mice with normal adiponectin levels expanded the size of their fat cells.

Creating many small fat cells may be healthier than making bloated fat cells, the researchers suggest.

Obviously, mice are different from people -- and the mice in this study weren't normal mice. They were genetically engineered to have their leptin and adiponectin levels altered.

But the researchers point out that not all extremely obese people have insulin resistance (a risk factor for type 2 diabetes), and higher levels of adiponectin often accompany favorable metabolic profiles.

Of course, reams of research show that extra weight makes diabetes and a host of other health problems more likely. The adiponectin study doesn’t change that.

Scherer cautions that until scientists figure out how to put the findings to work in humans, "exercise and reduction of food intake are the best ways to stay healthy."

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article