Diabetes has become an increasingly big problem in the Western world. In the United States, the number of new cases in 1980 compared to now has more than tripled. Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to a poor diet high in sugar.
Now, a new study out of Temple University, suggests the effect of diabetes can be seen just a few days after starting a high calorie diet. This is much quicker than previously thought.
The study was conducted on six men of normal weight who were fed 6,000 calories per day for a week. The meals consisted of what an average American meal would look like but in very large portions. To put this into perspective, the Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 2,200 calories per day for men of the age used in the study. The scientists conducting the study took tissue samples of the men to see how their bodies reacted to the increased food intake.
What they found was that the men in the study developed an insulin resistance, which is when the cells in the body cannot use insulin efficiently. This occurs when there is a large intake of carbohydrates and the pancreas has to work harder to produce more insulin to regulate the metabolism of the carbohydrates. When very large amounts of insulin are needed, cells can work up a resistance to normal concentrations of it and the result is that more insulin is needed putting stress on the pancreas. Eventually the pancreas ceases in its ability to produce adequate amounts of insulin and blood sugar levels rise. Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, the effects of the high calorie diet go beyond insulin resistance. The mitochondria, which are responsible for breaking down glucose for energy, were also under stress. They couldn’t keep up with the high calorie intake and as a result produced toxic byproducts. This process is known as oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress can actually lead to insulin resistance through negative effects on important proteins. According to the team, oxidative stress leads to changes in a protein called GLUT4, which is involved in glucose transport. Changes in this protein may be associated with insulin resistance.
This study is a reminder of how important a healthy diet is and shows us that diabetes is a big threat to our health and must be taken seriously.