Diabetes: Sugar and fat damage cells in the pancreas

A fast-food menu with burgers, fries and soft drinks promotes the development of type 2 diabetes: If foods high in fructose and high in fat are eaten at the same time, cells in the small intestine produce a particularly large amount of glycerate, which damages the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

It has long been known that fructose has harmful effects on the liver and promotes the development of fatty liver. This happens when the fructose metabolism in the small intestine is overloaded and the fructose level in the blood is too high. But type 2 diabetes can also be promoted by too much fructose if it is eaten together with a lot of fat. This is shown by experiments with mice that were fed high in fat and sugar: sugar is broken down in the intestine into glucose and fructose. The fructose is metabolized by cells in the small intestine, and this process was particularly efficient when the diet also contained a lot of fat. As a result, an intermediate product of the fructose metabolism called glycerate found its way into the bloodstream and damaged cells in the pancreas, causing the mice to produce less insulin. This is reported by a research team in the specialist journal Cell Metabolism.

The results are consistent with the observation that people who have high levels of glycerate due to a rare disease are at higher risk for diabetes.

The study results suggest that long-term high glycerate levels from foods high in fat and sugar, which are typical of the western diet, can damage the pancreas and promote the development of diabetes. “Elucidating the metabolic processes of the foods we eat is a critical component in optimizing our nutritional health. Understanding these processes allows us to develop more targeted and individualized treatments for increasingly common diseases like diabetes,” said Dr. Ali Khademhosseini from the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation in California.

Which: DOI 10.1016/j.cmet.2022.05.007

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