Losing just a gram of fat in pancreas can reverse Type 2 diabetes: study
Losing less than one gram of fat from the pancreas reverses the effects of Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.
Experts from Newcastle University have found the disease - which is on the increase in Ireland and around the world - is caused by fat accumulating in the pancreas.
The long-term condition, which can have serious consequences for patients, occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood.
Prof Roy Taylor, who led the small trial, tested 18 people with Type 2 diabetes and nine who did not, for weight, fat in the pancreas and insulin response before they had gastric band surgery, and again eight weeks after.
Both groups lost about 13pc of their initial body weight. The pool of fat in the pancreas did not change in the non-diabetics but decreased to a normal level in those with Type 2 diabetes.
Commenting on the findings Prof Donal O'Shea, an obesity expert and endocrinologist in St Colmcille's Hospital in Dublin, said it confirmed that fat in the wrong place was harmful and getting rid of it through weight loss allowed the body to function properly again.
"When we put people on a very low-calorie diet in the clinic their liver shrinks by about 40pc in size. We have not quantified the fat in their pancreas, but if you lose weight you lose fat from where you are storing it in excess."
He said it ess an important study in "confirming that fat in the pancreas is a bad thing". It is a driver of Type 2 diabetes.
However, people would have to lose around 10kg of weight to get rid of around one gram of fat, he pointed out.
The findings were presented to the World Diabetes Congress in Vancouver where the newly-released Diabetes Atlas shows that prevalence of diabetes in Ireland is around 4pc.
This is low compared to the USA (10.5pc), followed by Malta (10pc), Portugal (10pc) and Cyprus (9.5pc) in 3rd, 4th and 5th place respectively.
"The prevalence of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is increasing worldwide," said Professor Nam Cho, chair of the Diabetes Atlas committee.
"While the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes is currently unknown, trends such as urbanisation, unhealthy diets and reduced physical activity are all contributing lifestyle factors that increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes."
While the US leads the league table of developed nations, in global terms it is way down in 60th position. This is because of a tsunami of diabetes sweeping through the Middle East, Caribbean and Latin American regions, as well as the multiple nations in the Pacific Islands.
In fact, island nations or territories in various regions take all of the top five positions in the global league.
The 10 nations with the lowest estimated rates of diabetes globally are all in Africa. This is partly due to their higher prevalence of other diseases and lower life expectancy. However, prevalence rates in Africa are forecast to double by 2040.
It is estimated there are around 225,840 people in Ireland with both forms of diabetes. Being overweight and a lack of exercise are risk factors in developing Type 2 diabetes, but many people have diabetes but are not aware of it.
Prof O' Shea said diabetes was common in Ireland, but was more common in other ethnic populations.
"We will always be way behind countries such as China and Japan, because of their genetics. They have a predisposition to getting diabetes. But if you took a list of predominantly Caucasian countries we would be quite high up there," he said.
"We in Ireland have a well-recognised level of under-diagnosis."