Scientists discover connection between obesity and diabetes

December 11, 2003

DENVER - December 11, 2003 -Scientists with the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute at the University of Denver have made a revolutionary discovery that for the first time establishes a biochemical connection between obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. This study was published in this month's Journal of Endocrinology.

Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the body either doesn't make enough insulin or becomes resistant to insulin, preventing it from storing sugar thus increasing the body's sugar levels to beyond what is normal and healthy. In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 16 million people suffer from this disease.

In this landmark study, tests in mice found that diabetes in obese mice requires a hormone known as MSH, which is made by the POMC gene that is found in both mice and humans. The study found that obese mice without the MSH hormone were obese but did not develop diabetes. Administration of the MSH hormone to these mice increased resistance to insulin and directly affected blood sugar levels. Therefore, MSH may be a factor in the development of Type 2 Diabetes.

"Our findings show that obese people with high levels of the hormone MSH may be more likely to be diabetic than obese people with low levels of the MSH hormone," explained the study's lead author Miles B. Brennan, Ph.D., and ERI scientist. "While we knew that there was a connection between obesity and diabetes, this is the first time that the link between the hormone MSH and blood sugar levels has been established."

According to Brennan, this study will possibly lead to more preventive treatments for diabetes. Preventive treatments, such as testing the MSH hormone levels in obese individuals and then administering a medication if the levels are too high, are currently being studied.
Denver's Eleanor Roosevelt Institute was founded in 1961 as a private, independent research center. ERI merged with the University of Denver in 2003. The Institute is staffed by leading scientists from around the world who study Down syndrome, Lou Gehrig's disease, cancer, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and other diseases and conditions. It is the mission of the Institute's scientists to seek an in-depth understanding of the process of life and through this understanding work towards unlocking the mysteries of human health and disease.

Eleanor Roosevelt Institute

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