Obesity increases the risk of diabetes and an imbalanced sugar metabolism. The opposite is also true, as a study team from the University of Basel has recently shown: inadequate insulin synthesis by the body is a factor in obesity.
Lifestyle factors including poor nutrition, insufficient exercise, and excess weight on the scale affect the risk of metabolic illnesses like diabetes. But as a research team lead by Dr. Daniel Zeman-Meier of the university’s Department of Biomedicine and the University Hospital of Basel explains, the relationship also works the other way around. Overweight can result from impaired insulin production, which occurs in type 2 diabetes in its early stages.
The journal Nature Communications published the study’s findings.
When improper hormone stimulation occurs
Protease PC1/3, a vital enzyme in the body that converts numerous inactive hormone precursors into the finished, active forms, was the focus of the research team’s attention. Severe endocrine problems may result from a person’s lack of adequate enzyme action. The results include extreme overweight and an overwhelming sense of hunger.
According to Dr. Zeman-Meier, the study’s principal investigator, “Up until now, it was thought that this imbalance was caused by a lack of activation of satiety hormones.” “But the mice’s body weight did not appreciably change when we switched off PC1/3 in their brains.” This led the researchers to the conclusion that something other than a brain anomaly must be at fault. Inadequate insulin activation causes overeating and hunger.
The researchers then investigated whether improper hormone activation could contribute to obesity. Among other things, insulin is activated by PC1/3. The regulation of blood sugar and fat metabolism is greatly influenced by insulin. According to Dr. Zeman-Meier, investigating the role of insulin production as a contributor to obesity was evident. In the pancreas of mice, the researchers deliberately turned down PC1/3 in the insulin-producing beta cells. The animals ate a lot more calories, which led to their rapid weight gain and development of diabetes.
An essential human mechanism
According to Professor Marc Donath, the head of the research group and study’s third author, “These results are also intriguing because PC1/3 is decreased in the pancreas of individuals with prediabetes.” This suggests that improper insulin activation may lead to weight gain as well as be a contributing factor.
Donath notes that PC1/3 is crucial for maintaining appropriate weight in healthy people as well. The researchers were able to demonstrate that the expression of the PC1/3 gene in the pancreas is negatively linked with average body weight, indicating that having enough PC1/3 encourages a healthy body weight.
The discovery that obesity is caused by a malfunction in the beta cells that produce insulin opens up new treatment avenues.
In the fight against obesity and diabetes, for instance, it is feasible that drugs could be employed to decrease the creation of immature insulin precursors.