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Fat cells discovery could reveal insights about glucose control in diabetes

A discovery into how fat cells work alongside the liver could have research implications for several diseases, including diabetes and cancer.

Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center report that fat cells help the liver to maintain blood sugar control, claiming they “have the liver’s back”.

These fat cells maintain tight regulation of a metabolite called uridine, which has many roles in the body, including storing glucose.

When the body is fasting, the fat cells take over from the liver in producing uridine. These findings were replicated in human, mouse and rat studies.

The importance of uridine in the body and its relationship with fat cells could signal new research opportunities for understanding glucose regulation in diabetes, the researchers said.

Senior author Dr Phillip Scherer explained: “Like glucose, every cell in the body needs uridine to stay alive. Glucose is needed for energy, particularly in the brain’s neurons. Uridine is a basic building block for a lot of things inside the cell.

“We found that the liver serves as the primary producer of this metabolite only in the fed state. In the fasted state, the body’s fat cells take over the production of uridine.”

Levels of blood uridine were shown to increase during fasting and lower during feeding, with excess uridine released through bile.

“It turns out that having uridine in your gut helps you absorb glucose; therefore uridine helps in glucose regulation,” said Scherer.

This fasting-induced rise in uridine was also linked to reduced body temperature due to disruption of the metabolism.

When the researchers tested the effects of a high-fat diet in dietary studies, body temperature was prevented from lowering, an effect also associated with obesity.

The study team later discovered that these findings were because of decreased uridine levels in response to fasting.

“Our studies reveal a direct link between temperature regulation and metabolism, indicating that a uridine-centred model of energy balance may pave the way for future studies on uridine balance and how this process is dysregulated in the diabetic state,” concluded Scherer.

The study has been published in the journal Science.


Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common long-term health conditions
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common long-term health conditions

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder that results in hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) due to the body:

  • Being ineffective at using the insulin it has produced; also known as insulin resistance and/or
  • Being unable to produce enough insulin

Type 2 diabetes is characterised by the body being unable to metabolise glucose (a simple sugar). This leads to high levels of blood glucose which over time may damage the organs of the body.

From this, it can be understood that for someone with diabetes something that is food for ordinary people can become a sort of metabolic poison.

This is why people with diabetes are advised to avoid sources of dietary sugar.

The good news is for very many people with type 2 diabetes this is all they have to do to stay well. If you can keep your blood sugar lower by avoiding dietary sugar, likely you will never need long-term medication.

Type 2 diabetes was formerly known as non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes due to its occurrence mainly in people over 40. However, type 2 diabetes is now becoming more common in young adults, teens and children and accounts for roughly 90% of all diabetes cases worldwide.

How serious is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a serious medical condition that often requires the use of anti-diabetic medication, or insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control. However, the development of type 2 diabetes and its side effects (complications) can be prevented if detected and treated at an early stage.

In recent years, it has become apparent that many people with type 2 diabetes are able to reverse diabetes through methods including low-carb diets, very-low-calorie diets and exercise.

For guidance on healthy eating to improve blood glucose levels and weight and to fight back against insulin resistance, join the Low Carb Program.

Following pre-diabetes or metabolic disorder, type 2 diabetes can potentially be avoided through diet and exercise.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the hormone insulin is not used effectively by the cells in your body. Insulin is needed for cells to take in glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream and convert it into energy.

Ineffective use of insulin results in the body becoming resistant to insulin – also known as insulin resistance, which in turn causes blood sugar levels to rise (hyperglycemia).

In advanced stages, type 2 diabetes may cause damage to insulin producing cells in the pancreas, leading to insufficient insulin production for your body’s needs.

Type 2 diabetes…

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