Brown bears, squirrels, bats and frogs could hold the key to why western populations are facing an epidemic of type 2 diabetes, according to professor of medicine Peter Grant. If his theory is proven, it will “completely change the view of diabetes and its cause.”
By 2025, 300 million people worldwide will suffer from type 2 diabetes, up to 85 per cent of whom will die of related heart disease. The condition, associated with obesity, develops when the body’s fat cells secrete proteins involved in both cardiovascular disease and the development of insulin resistance, preventing the body from using glucose as an energy source.
Professor Grant, director of the University’s new £10m Leeds Institute of Genetics, Health and Therapeutics (LIGHT), believes the body wouldn’t become resistant to insulin action and hoard fat in this way without a reason. “It’s a physiological process so there must be some kind of benefit,” he said. “The question is, under what circumstances?” When the body’s fat cells – or adipocytes – become full, they send messages to the brain to slow down and conserve energy. There is one circumstance where these responses are vital – animal hibernation.
Hannah Love | alfa
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