How does Obesity Cause Diabetes?

It has been well established by many scientific studies that there is a strong correlation between obesity and the onset of type 2 diabetes. While the connection between obesity and diabetes has been well known for years, what has been less clear is, How does obesity cause diabetes?

Not all obese people get diabetes

The difficulty for researchers who are conducting long-term studies aimed at explaining the mechanism by which obesity causes diabetes, is that similar conditions in patients do not produce the same outcome. In other words, being obese is not enough in and of itself to cause diabetes.

An independent study by researchers from the Centers of Disease Control concluded that the common factor among people with type 2 diabetes is being overweight or obese. However, out of 1,000 obese people, statistically only 18 will develop type 2 diabetes. Something else beyond simply excess weight is causing those 18 people to develop diabetes and the other 82 to not develop diabetes.

Fat cells and insulin

Scientists are now beginning to speculate that it may be related to the number of fat cells the person has. According to researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, this is because fat cells release a protein called pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF) which leads to the development of type 2 diabetes. Therefore, the number of fat cells that a person has will be directly proportional to the amount of this protein that is released.

Other researchers studying how obesity causes diabetes have come up with other answers, which appear to relate back to the protein released by fat cells. Originally, scientists focused on the role of insulin and insulin resistance, which is when a person’s body needs to produce greater and greater amounts of insulin in order to process glucose in the blood, eventually causing the pancreas to fail from exhaustion. However, it is now known that the protein released by the fat cells is what causes the insulin resistance or desensitization.

Other ways obesity affects insulin

According to a study conducted at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, fat cells also produce a hormone known as resistin. This hormone prevents cells from correctly responding to insulin. When cells are affected by resistin, the person develops abnormal blood glucose, appetite, and fat storage.

A study from the Harvard School of Public Health describes the process by which the endoplasmic reticulum, which is the part of the cell membrane that processes fats and proteins, is stressed by obesity. The endoplasmic reticulum sends out a signal which tells the body to ignore signals sent by insulin until it finishes processing.

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