A wide scatter of absolute levels of pancreas triacylglycerol has been reported, with a tendency for higher levels in people with diabetes (57). This large population study showed overlap between diabetic and weight-matched control groups. These findings were also observed in a more recent smaller study that used a more precise method (21). Why would one person have normal β-cell function with a pancreas fat level of, for example, 8%, whereas another has type 2 diabetes with a pancreas fat level of 5%? There must be varying degrees of liposusceptibility of the metabolic organs, and this has been demonstrated in relation to ethnic differences (72). If the fat is simply not available to the body, then the susceptibility of the pancreas will not be tested, whereas if the individual acquires excess fat stores, then β-cell failure may or may not develop depending on degree of liposusceptibility. In any group of people with type 2 diabetes, simple inspection reveals that diabetes develops in some with a body mass index (BMI) in the normal or overweight range, whereas others have a very high BMI. The pathophysiologic changes in insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity are not different in obese and normal weight people (73), and the upswing in population rates of type 2 diabetes relates to a right shift in the whole BMI distribution. Hence, the person with a BMI of 24 and type 2 diabetes would in a previous era have had a BMI of 21 and no diabetes. It is clear that individual susceptibility factors determine the onset of the condition, and both genetic and epigenetic factors may contribute. Given that diabetes cannot occur without loss of acute insulin response to food, it can be postulated that this failure of acute insulin secretion could relate to both accumulation of fat and susceptibility to the adverse effect of excess fat in the pancreas.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1980 through 2010, the number of American adults aged 18 and older with diagnosed diabetes more than tripled—soaring from 5.5 million to 20.7 million. Moreover, the diabetes epidemic shows no signs of slowing down, affecting 25.8 million people in 2011. Another 79 million adults have prediabetes, putting them at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes down the road, according to the CDC.
The core problem is insulin. Most people naturally secrete that substance when they eat something with carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes and candy bars. Insulin acts like a concierge that escorts the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells, providing the cells with the energy to function. In most people, the body is continually monitoring blood sugar and producing insulin as needed.
For 15 years, Erez Benari’s struggle with his type 2 diabetes had been a losing one. A software engineer at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington, Benari had stuck to a restrictive diet that kept him off most carbs, along with regular insulin shots. But still, his high blood sugar levels never dropped, while his health continued to decline. In 2013, the then 39-year-old Benari suffered a heart attack.
Pramlintide is only appropriate for certain people with diabetes who use insulin and are having problems maintaining their blood sugar levels. Because of the potential for severe hypoglycemia with the use of pramlintide is with insulin, adjustments to insulin dosage and more frequent glucose monitoring may be necessary. Insulin and pramlintide should not be mixed in the same syringe.
The first hint that type 2 diabetes is a fully reversible syndrome came from bariatric surgery. Almost a quarter century ago, Pories et al. (12) demonstrated that blood glucose levels normalized in obese people with type 2 diabetes undergoing bariatric surgery and that 10 years later, almost 90% remained free of diabetes. The phenomenon was more recently tested in a randomized prospective study comparing gastric banding with intensive medical therapy for type 2 diabetes (13). This least invasive type of surgery was most suitable for the randomized study, although it was associated with lower rates of diabetes reversal than other procedures. Mean fasting plasma glucose fell to normal levels in the surgically treated group but declined only modestly in the intensive medical treatment group despite oral agents and insulin (Fig. 1) (13). Remission of diabetes was related to the degree of weight loss rather than to group allocation and was achieved in 73% of the surgical group and 13% of the intensive medical treatment group because surgery was more effective in achieving weight loss as previously described (14). Type 2 diabetes can be reversed by applying a surgical procedure that diminishes fat mass.
The Chinese language includes two terms for diabetes. The traditional name, Xiao-ke, correlates closely with diabetes in most instances. Xiao-ke syndrome means “wasting and thirsting.” The more modern term, Tang-niao-bing, means “sugar urine illness.” Reference to diabetes by the traditional term appears in the earliest texts, including the first medical text in Chinese history, Huang Di Nei Jing, or The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic.
When cells are resistant to insulin, they don’t use the insulin effectively to bring the glucose from the bloodstream into the cell. The pancreas needs to produce more insulin to overcome this resistance in an effort to normalize blood sugar levels. When the pancreas can’t keep up with the insulin demands in a person with insulin resistance, that person develops diabetes.
First, the health of your gut is critical to your overall health. This is because your gut is home of trillions of microbes called the gut microbiome. These microbes work in symbiotic and antagonistic relationships within your body. A 2017 study using multiple therapies to manipulate the gut microbiome composition, found they could impact the individual’s health more rapidly. This study also found manipulating the gut microbiome as an effective way to avoid insulin resistance and therefore prevent diabetes.