Did You Know…that you can reverse type 2 diabetes by losing fat from the pancreas?
Nearly 30 million American adults and children have type 2 diabetes, and 1.7 million new cases are diagnosed every year. This preventable disease afflicts 9% of the entire global population. It’s an epidemic, and one that researchers have been diligently trying reverse.
Newcastle University scientists might just have stumbled on a key factor in the diabetes equation.
Type 2 Diabetes: The Basics
When your body senses the presence of sugar in your bloodstream, let’s say after a meal, it releases the hormone insulin from your pancreas. Insulin goes to work lowering the amount of sugar in your bloodstream, ushering glucose into your liver, fat, and muscle cells. As your blood sugar levels start to drop, your pancreas adjusts its release of insulin accordingly.
When this refined system breaks down, type 2 diabetes sets in. Glucose accumulates in your bloodstream instead of being absorbed by your cells. Your pancreas reacts by producing more insulin to control the glucose, but eventually the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas become worn out and can’t produce enough insulin to meet your body’s needs. That’s where a type 2 diabetes diagnoses comes in. Excess weight, lack of activity, and environmental factors are all thought to play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.
The Pancreas Fat Connection
Professor Ray Taylor and his team at Newcastle University have discovered a link between fat in the pancreas and diabetes. Their team showed that by reducing fat levels in the pancreas by just 1 gram, you can reverse type 2 diabetes.
The study was made up of 27 obese people electing to have gastric bypass surgery to induce weight loss. Eighteen participants with type 2 diabetes and 9 without were measured for weight, fat levels in the pancreas, and insulin response before the surgery and 8 weeks after.
Those with diabetes were found to have excess fat in the pancreas, whereas those without diabetes did not. Eight weeks post surgery, however, the diabetic patients’ pancreatic fat levels had reduced by 1.2%! Those without diabetes still had normal fat levels in the pancreas.
Professor Taylor explains: “For people with type 2 diabetes, losing weight allows them to drain excess fat out of the pancreas and allows function to return to normal. So if you ask how much weight you need to lose to make your diabetes go away, the answer is one gram! But that gram needs to be fat from the pancreas. At present the only way we have to achieve this is by calorie restriction by any means—whether by diet or an operation.”
Taylor’s previous research in 2011 showed that what you eat can help zap the fat that clogs up your pancreas, thereby enabling insulin secretion to return to normal levels. Of course, everyone’s body is unique, and the amount of fat a person’s pancreas can tolerate before diabetes sets in varies. However, without a doubt, eating a balanced diet, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight are the first steps to reversing a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
Taylor and team are presenting their findings at the World Diabetes Conference in Vancouver and publishing their research online in Diabetes Care.