Brain Link Seen in Type 2 Diabetes
Glucose Problems in Certain Brain Cells May Be a Red Flag of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Aug. 29, 2007 -- The early warning signs of type 2 diabetes may include
subtle changes in some brain cells, a new study shows.
The study comes from researchers including Harvard Medical School's Bradford
Lowell, MD, PhD.
They studied mice, not people, but the findings may hold important clues
about the roots of type 2 diabetes.
In type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t respond properly to insulin, a hormone
that controls blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes
Lowell's team studied certain brain cells called POMC neurons in mice.
Usually, those brain cells are sensitive to glucose (blood sugar).
But when the researchers put the mice on a high-fat diet, the mice became
obese -- and their POMC neurons became less sensitive to glucose.
That drop in glucose sensitivity may play a role in the development of type
2 diabetes, Lowell and colleagues write in today's online edition of the
The study doesn't prove that type 2 diabetes begins in the brain. Type 2
diabetes has been shown to affect just about every part of the body, and it's
not clear exactly how or where it starts.
Looking for a take-home message from Lowell's study? It might be to keep an
eye on your weight. After all, the mice lost some of their mental glucose
sensitivity after they went on a high-fat diet and became obese.
That doesn't mean that all obese people get type 2 diabetes or that everyone
with type 2 diabetes is obese.
But since type 2 diabetes makes heart disease, stroke, and many other health
problems more likely -- and because type 2 diabetes often goes undiagnosed --
it may be worth discussing with your doctor, especially if you've seen the
numbers on your scale notch upwards.