Why Weight Loss Produces Remission of Type-2 Diabetes in Some Patients


Source: Cell Press

Summary: A new study reveals that successful response to weight loss is associated with the early and sustained improvement in the functioning of pancreatic beta cells.


According to the WHO, diabetes affects approximately 422 million people worldwide. Approximately 90% of cases are type2 diabetes, a condition in which the body does not produce enough or respond properly to insulin. This hormone, produced by beta cells in the pancreas, helps a sugar called glucose in the blood enter cells in muscle, fat, and liver to be used for energy. Type-2 diabetes has long been considered a lifelong condition that worsens over time. A clinical trial recently showed that nearly half of individuals with type-2 diabetes achieved remission to a non-diabetic state after a weight-loss intervention delivered within 6 years of diagnosis. A new study reveals that this successful response to weight loss is associated with the early and sustained improvement in the functioning of pancreatic beta cells. The study findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Pancreatic beta cells

Cross sectional MRI images are displayed with pixels colour-coded for fat content. In this individual, the high liver fat at baseline (30.4 percent) decreased to 1.3 percent after weight loss. The lower panels, at the level of the pancreas (outlined in white), show the decrease in pancreas fat (8.9 to 7.5 percent) associated with the restoration of first phase and maximal insulin secretion. Credit: Taylor et al.

The participants, who were diagnosed with type2 diabetes within 6 years of the start of the study, were randomly assigned to best-practice care (control group) or an intensive primary-care-led weight-management program (intervention group). The research team examined potentially relevant metabolic factors, such as liver fat content, pancreatic fat content, blood concentrations of fats called triglycerides, and beta-cell function. They found that responders to the weight loss program were similar to non-responders before the intervention but had a shorter duration of diabetes (2.7 years vs. 3.8 years). Both responders and non-responders had lost comparable amounts of weight, leading to similar reductions in liver fat content, pancreatic fat content, and blood concentrations of triglycerides.

Senior study author Roy Taylor said, “The knowledge of reversibility of type 2 diabetes, ultimately due to re-differentiation of pancreatic beta cells, will lead to further targeted work to improve understanding of this process”, “This provides a major focus for cell biologists to make specific advances.”


More Information: Taylor et al, “Remission of Human Type 2 Diabetes Requires Decrease in Liver and Pancreas Fat Content but Is Dependent upon Capacity for Beta Cell Recovery”, Cell Metabolism (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2018.07.003 


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