Thursday, August 25, 2005

The 20-Year Decline Leading to Diabetes

Researchers from Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) have found there exists a detectable decline in energy production by mitochondria in cells which seems to be a key problem leading to insulin resistance, and later to Type II diabetes. The researchers said that insulin resistance is detectable as early as 20 years before the symptoms of diabetes become evident.

The research, led by Gerald Shulman, may lead to better testing and prevention of Type II Diabetes in the future. Shulman and his colleagues found that the rate of insulin-stimulated energy production by mitochondria is significantly reduced in the muscles of lean, healthy young adults who have already developed insulin resistance and who are at increased risk of developing diabetes later in life.

Their research shows that a decreased ability to burn sugars and fats efficiently is an early and central part of the diabetes problem. This new data also suggest the basic defect lies within the mitochondria, which exist in almost every cell in the human body.

In the new studies, Shulman and colleagues discovered that the mitochondria in muscle cells respond poorly to insulin stimulation. Normal mitochondria react to insulin by boosting production of an energy-carrying molecule, ATP, by 90 percent. But the mitochondria from the insulin-resistant people they tested only boosted ATP production by 5 percent.

Among their findings was also evidence for a severe reduction in the amount of insulin stimulated phosphorus transport into the muscle cells of the insulin-resistant participants. This also points to a dramatic defect in insulin signaling and may explain the observed abnormalities in insulin-stimulated power production in the insulin-resistant study subjects, since phosphorus is a key element in the mitochondrion's complex energy-production process, the oxidative-phosphorylation pathway.

This is some very important research. Not only does it demonstrate that warning signs are evident in the body very early before one actually becomes diabetic, it also indicates that insulin is a strong influence on the overall ability of cells to function properly well before outward signs of insulin resistence and diabetes are measurable.

Today the average American is eating excessive amounts of carbohydrate from very early in life. The human body simply does not need the very high level of carbohydrate we eat on average each day. The constant high level that is eaten is taking its toll slowly inside our cells, damaging our cells ability to effectively utilize the insulin and glucose.

Controlling carbohydrate intake to a level that effectively provides the energy and essential nutrients we do need without being excessive is really an important step to long-term overall health. Not only will controlling carbohydrate help maintain your weight, it also helps to keep your insulin levels stable - something that is key to limiting or avoiding insulin resistance.

We know from various studies that insulin resistance is present in virtually every Type II diabetic. We now know that insulin resistence slowly emerges, over time, as cells lose their ability to function properly. What you eat today truly will have an impact on your health 5, 10, 20-years down the road. The good thing is that it is never too late to modify your eating habits to be health promoting - that is eat a diet rich in essential nutrients, control your carbohydrates, eliminate the junk and include adequate protein and natural fats and oils.

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