Longevity

Longevity Briefs: Avoid Diabetes – Dress Like You’re 21

Posted on 28 September 2021

Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: When most people think of the typical person with type II diabetes mellitus, the first thing they envisage might be someone who is overweight. While there is certainly a relationship between diabetes and body weight, it is perfectly possible to have a healthy weight and still develop insulin resistance and diabetes (around 10-15% of type II diabetics have a healthy weight). So, is the cause of diabetes in these individuals different from that in those who are overweight? Or are these people, despite being within our arbitrary definition of ‘healthy weight’, actually still carrying too much fat?

What did the researchers do: Researchers at the University of Newcastle recruited 12 participants with type II diabetes and an average BMI of 24.5 (the upper end of what is considered normal for most adults). They followed a weight-loss programme that included a low-calorie liquid-only diet of below 800 calories a day. They completed three rounds of this programme until they lost 10 to 15% of their body weight. After weight loss was achieved, participants were scanned to measure their liver fat.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: Out of the 12 participants, 8 achieved remission of their diabetes (they had normal blood sugar levels and were no longer on diabetes medication), and showed reductions in liver and pancreatic fat. Though the sample size in this study was small, the effects seem quite remarkable and merit further study.

As a rule of thumb, your waist size should be the same now as when you were 21. If you can’t get into the same size trousers now, you are carrying too much fat and therefore at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even if you aren’t overweight.

Professor Roy Taylor (University of Newcastle), the principle investigator in the study.

Our current thinking is that insulin resistance is driven by an excess of fat, accumulating first in the muscle tissue and then in the liver. These results seem to suggest that this applies to people who are of normal weight just as it does to those who are obese. It may therefore not be about obesity, but about being ‘too heavy for your own body’. Professor Roy Taylor, the principal investigator in the study, suggests that if you can’t fit into the same size trousers you wore at 21, you might want to consider trying to lose weight even if your weight is healthy. In fact, perhaps we need to reconsider how we define ‘healthy weight’ in the first place.


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References

People who ‘can’t fit into jeans they wore aged 21’ risk developing diabetes: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/sep/27/people-who-cant-fit-into-jeans-they-wore-aged-21-risk-developing-diabetes

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