A New Diabetes Treatment in the Making

Did You Know…that a natural molecule may treat type 2 diabetes by mimicking the effects of exercise?

Type 2 diabetes is one of the top lifestyle epidemics of our time.  According to the Einstein College of Medicine, “Some 26 million Americans already have type 2 diabetes, incurring healthcare bills totaling $250 billion a year.  Millions more are at risk for developing the disease.  If current trends continue, one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050.”

That’s why a new discovery just published in the journal Nature Medicine is so exciting.  Researchers have discovered a natural molecule with the potential to treat insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.  The molecule derives from omega-3 fatty acids, and it mimics the effects of physical exercise on blood glucose regulation.

The breakthrough comes from the work of researchers at the Université Laval Faculty of Medicine, the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute Research Center, and the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods.  The team was led to its discovery by professor André Marette, and the results could change lives worldwide.

The Omega-3 Connection 

For years, scientists have understood that omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce insulin resistance caused by diets high in saturated fat.  Previous work by Dr. Marette and his colleagues has shown how a bioactive lipid called protectin D1 is important to the positive effects of omega-3s.

The team’s further investigations highlight a related substance called protectin DX (PDX).  PDX triggers the production and release of interleukin 6 (IL-6) in muscle cells—the exact same response that takes place during physical exercise!

The research team explains this way:  “Once in the bloodstream, IL-6 controls glucose levels in two ways:  it signals to the liver to reduce glucose production and acts directly on the muscles to increase glucose uptake.”

Dramatic Improvements in Insulin Response 

In tests involving obese diabetic rats, PDX dramatically improved responsiveness to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood glucose.  Said the researchers:  “…[PDX] represents a new therapeutic strategy for improving glucose control.  Its efficacy may be comparable with that of certain drugs currently prescribed to control glycemia.

Professor Marette and Université Laval have filed a patent application for PDX.  They say their next step will be to show the antidiabetic effects in humans and examine more closely the substance’s effects and mechanisms in the body.

 

But Don’t Stop Moving!

Although PDX appears to mimic the effect of physical exercise, it cannot fully substitute for walking, running, swimming, biking, and other forms of physical activity.  The researchers stress that exercise has “cardiovascular and other hormonal benefits that go well beyond its metabolic effects on the muscles.”
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