Diabetes Research: Measuring the Activity of Insulin

We rely on insulin supplied by our pancreas at the right dose and at the right time to control our blood glucose levels and energy storage. Insulin works by regulating the energy usage of various cell types in the body. When this process goes awry, it can cause diabetes.

There are two types of diabetes, defined by how insulin is dysregulated. In Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), the pancreas produces too little insulin. Patients need to give themselves insulin in order to respond to glucose in the diet. In Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), patients do not respond well to the insulin produced in their body. Therefore, they need to give themselves more to avoid hyperglycemia (high blood glucose).

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Ancient Origins of a Human Gene Associated with Diabetes

Ancient peopleRecently, researchers of the SIGMA Type 2 Diabetes Consortium published a paper in Nature identifying a new locus associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes (1). Considering the increasing prevalence of this metabolic disease in today’s sugar-filled world, any discovery that helps us understand diabetes is exciting news. However, the most interesting discovery published in this paper might not be this new gene variant but rather the origin of this variant in modern human populations: Neandertals.

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The Buzz About Akkermansia muciniphila: It’s More Than Just Weight Loss

ScaleThe bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila is creating quite a stir in science news, with people calling it the “weight loss bacterium”. While it’s exciting to think about a bacterium that has the ability to reduce body weight with no change in food intake, there’s another reason to get excited: The potential to treat obesity-related metabolic disorders such as type-2 diabetes and perhaps even diseases related to intestinal inflammation.

There are hundreds of bacterial species that colonize the gut. Why has this bacterium been dubbed the “weight loss bacterium”, and why do researchers have such lofty goals for this simple unicellular organism? Continue reading “The Buzz About Akkermansia muciniphila: It’s More Than Just Weight Loss”

Trans Fats—the Science behind the Story

In December 2006, New York City became the first city to ban the use of artificial trans fats at all city restaurants, a mandate that went into effect in July 2008. Since that time, NYC’s trans fat ban has been looked upon as a unique health model that other major cities, including Washngton, D.C. and Philadelphia, have also considered implementing. Recently, the states of California and Illinois have moved forward with legislation that will eventually ban the use of artificial trans fat in all restaurants, cafes, and movie theaters (1).

As knowledge about the true nature of fats has expanded, saturated fat has actually been found to be a healthy source of nutrition and essential to the proper maintenance of many body systems (2). In contrast, trans fat, which was initially thought to be a healthy source of unsaturated fat, has instead been linked to several diseases, including coronary heart disease (CHD), diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease. This was not the given attitude even 20 years ago, when margarine was touted as healthy and lard was villainized.

Unsaturated fatty acids are found in two main configurations: trans (i.e., across) and cis (i.e., on the same side). These configurations are the result of carbon-carbon double bonds (C=C) within the skeleton of the molecule. Continue reading “Trans Fats—the Science behind the Story”

The Link Between Childhood Adversity and Cellular Aging

Neglected childAdversity and stress are known risk factors for psychiatric disorders, cardiovascular and immune disease, cognitive decline and other health problems. The long-term negative effects of adversity seem to be greatest if the traumatic events were experienced during childhood, when the brain and other biological systems are developing and maturing. Researchers are working to identify the mechanisms involved and have identified telomere shortening as one possible mechanism by which adversity increases morbidity and mortality. Continue reading “The Link Between Childhood Adversity and Cellular Aging”