A natural peptide could help tackle obesity and diabetes
- Peptides are smaller versions of proteins that have a range of purposes, such as the potential to reduce the signs of aging, relieve inflammation, or promote muscle growth.
- In 2015, researchers discovered a type of peptide called PEPITEM, and recognized its function in the adiponectin-PEPITEM pathway, which regulates the onset and severity of autoimmune or chronic inflammatory conditions.
- Now, new research in animal models reveals that this peptide has the potential to offer a groundbreaking solution for many diseases.
- The peptide may decrease the chances of developing type 2 diabetes and other conditions associated with obesity, such as fatty liver disease, the study indicates.
Obesity leads to significant changes in adipose (fat) tissue metabolism, harms the pancreas, impairs insulin sensitivity, and eventually causes hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is the foundation of type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, it triggers a low-grade inflammatory reaction throughout the body, which promotes the infiltration of white blood cells into numerous tissues, including fat deposits located deep within the body that surround organs, such as the liver and gut — called visceral adipose tissue — and the peritoneal cavity, a delicate membrane that encloses the gut.
According to a new study, published in Clinical and Experimental Immunology, the adiponectin-PEPITEM pathway provides a link between obesity, the accompanying low-grade inflammatory response, and modifications in the pancreas that occur prior to the onset of diabetes.
Using a mouse model of obesity, the researchers administered the peptide PEPITEM using a slow-release pump, to see if it could prevent or perhaps even reverse the impacts of a high-fat diet on the pancreas.
The researchers found that administering PEPITEM to mice that were following a high-fat diet resulted in a significant reduction in the enlargement of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and the number of white blood cells in the visceral adipose tissue and peritoneal cavity when compared to the control group.
Scale of problem in diabetes
Diabetes is a non-communicable disease (NCD) where the amount of glucose in the blood is too high. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease whereby the body is unable to produce any insulin, and Type 2 diabetes develops when the body stops producing enough insulin or the body’s cells stop reacting to insulin produced.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with lifestyle factors – being overweight or obese is the major modifiable risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. The onset of Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented through support to change behaviour around lifestyle choices. Type 1 diabetes is not related to lifestyle issues, and at this point cannot be prevented.
Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes
The obesogenic environment and associated lifestyle risk factors
The increasingly obesogenic environment we live in makes it harder for individuals to avoid unhealthy lifestyle choices. The obesogenic environment can be considered to be at the root of the prevention challenge in Type 2 diabetes.
From childhood, people are exposed to ultra-processed, energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods, which are cheap and readily available. Opportunities for physical activity, both in and out of school and the workplace, have been reduced and more time is spent on screen-based and sedentary leisure activities. As a result, high proportions of children and adults have increasingly been defaulting to unhealthy lifestyle choices including unhealthy diets, low levels of physical activity, and sedentary behaviour. These all give rise to higher risk of Type 2 diabetes:
- overweight or obesity with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more
- a large waist circumference – more than 80cm or 31.5 inches in women and 94cm or 37 inches in men