How good fat and toxic fat play a role in diabetes
Why do thin fit people as well as obese people become diabetic?
Much research has been discovering how good fat, brown adipose tissue, might play a key role in treating diabetes. Activating brown fat with a cooling vest, drugs or stem cells are all being studied. While the role of this “good fat” is becoming known, the basic causes of diabetes are still elusive. Even very fit and lean individuals can have diabetes so exercise and diet are not the only factor.
A common link link between type I and type 2 diabetes is being pursued in research about the role increased levels of a “toxic fat”, ceramides, plays in metabolic disease. A researcher who’s family had a history of diabetes, Scott summers, has been on a quest to discover the common root of diabetes ever since witnessing his adult father, an avid daily runner, begin needing to take daily insulin injections after being diagnosed with the disease in his 40’s.1)
Research into the question of why both lean and obese individuals can become diabetic has led to a prime suspect: Ceramides, a waxy lipid that has been called “toxic fat.” A study published in the journal Cell Metabolism looked at how toxic fat interferes with normal function of brown fat. This could be a root cause involved in a number of metabolic diseases that involve adipose tissue: white fat, brown fat and beige fat. The toxic fat appears to be causing interference in the body’s internal communication system that can sense the energy or nutritional status of the body. Normally excess glucose can be used up by active beige fat or brown fat cells, but the toxic fat, ceramides, interferes with the process.
Brown adipose tissue is jam packed with mitochondria cells that are iron rich (“brown fat”). These cells burn off energy that otherwise is stored in bad, white fat, tissue. While much focus has been on cooling the body with a cooling vest for weight loss or finding a drug to activate brown fat, understanding and stopping toxic fat looks like a promising path to curing diabetes.
1) Hamblin, James: The Scientist Harnessing ‘Toxic Fat,’ The Atlantic, March 15, 201