What you eat and not just the number of calories, is a significant factor in diabetes risk

If you think losing weight is enough to prevent Type 2 diabetes, don’t get your hopes up. A new research report in September 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal, suggests that you don’t have to be overweight to develop Type 2 diabetes. This study compared genetically identical twins-one heavier and one leaner-and found that after eating a fast-food meal, the circulating metabolites, including those related to Type 2 diabetes, were found in both individuals at the same levels. These findings suggest that the onset of this type of diabetes is largely influenced by genetic factors and/or the composition of gut microbiota.

“Our study contributes to better understanding of the genetic and environmental factors influencing several risk factors which are associated with obesity and metabolic disease (e.g., Type 2 diabetes),” said Matej Oresic, Ph.D., study author from the Steno Diabetes Center in Gentofte, Denmark. “As such, our study may contribute to the efforts aimed at prevention and treatment of metabolic complications associated with obesity.”

To make this discovery, scientists studied identical twin pairs, where the twins differed in weight. They were healthy young adults from a national (Finnish) study of twins. The twins ate a fast food meal, and then gave many blood samples over several hours. A broad panel of small molecules (i.e., metabolites) was measured in blood, including amino acids, fatty acids and bile acids. The diversity of fecal microbiota also was assessed at the baseline. Results showed that twin-pair similarity is a dominant factor in the metabolic postprandial response, independent of obesity. Branched chain amino acids, known risk factors of diabetes, were increased in heavier as compared to leaner co-twins in the fasting state, but their levels converged postprandially. This study also demonstrated that specific bacterial groups were associated with postprandial changes of specific metabolites. This is the first comprehensive study examining metabolic postprandial responses in twins discordant for weight.

“When someone is overweight and at risk for diabetes, the conventional wisdom is to say ‘lose weight,’” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, “and to a degree that recommendation holds true. This report, however, shows that a calorie is not just a calorie as some would contend. Exactly what we eat and drink, and not just the number of calories, may be the most important factor in our health.”

Receive monthly highlights from The FASEB Journal by e-mail. Sign up at http://www.faseb.org/fjupdate.aspx. The FASEB Journal is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). It is the world’s most cited biology journal according to the Institute for Scientific Information and has been recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century.

Myths and facts about diabetes and diet

MYTH: You must avoid sugar at all costs.
Fact: The good news is that you can enjoy your favorite treats as long as you plan properly. Dessert doesn’t have to be off limits, as long as it’s a part of a healthy meal plan or combined with exercise.

MYTH: A high-protein diet is best.
Fact: Studies have shown that eating too much protein, especially animal protein, may actually cause insulin resistance, a key factor in diabetes. A healthy diet includes protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Our bodies need all three to function properly. The key is a balanced diet.

MYTH: You have to cut way down on carbs.
Fact: Again, the key is to eat a balanced diet. The serving size and the type of carbohydrates you eat are especially important. Focus on whole grain carbs since they are a good source of fiber and they are digested slowly, keeping blood sugar levels more even.

MYTH: You’ll no longer be able to eat normally. You need special diabetic meals.
Fact: The principles of healthy eating are the same- whether or not you’re trying to prevent or control diabetes. Expensive diabetic foods generally offer no special benefit. You can easily eat with your family and friends if you eat in moderation.

What you eat and not just the number of calories, is a significant factor in diabetes risk FASEB is composed of 27 societies with more than 120,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Our mission is to advance health and welfare by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.

Details: Isabel Bondia-Pons, Johanna Maukonen, Ismo Mattila, Aila Rissanen, Maria Saarela, Jaakko Kaprio, Antti Hakkarainen, Jesper Lundbom, Nina Lundbom, Tuulia Hyötyläinen, Kirsi H. Pietiläinen, and Matej Orešič. Metabolome and fecal microbiota in monozygotic twin pairs discordant for weight: a Big Mac challenge. FASEB J. September 2014 28:4169-4179; doi:10.1096/fj.14-250167

8 principles of low-glycemic eating

  Eat a lot of non-starchy vegetables, beans, and fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, and berries. Even tropical fruits like bananas, mangoes, and papayas tend to have a lower glycemic index than typical desserts.

  Eat grains in the least-processed state possible: “unbroken,” such as whole-kernel bread, brown rice, and whole barley, millet, and wheat berries; or traditionally processed, such as stone-ground bread, steel-cut oats, and natural granola or muesli breakfast cereals.

  Limit white potatoes and refined grain products such as white breads and white pasta to small side dishes.

  Limit concentrated sweets- including high-calorie foods with a low glycemic index, such as ice cream-  to occasional treats. Reduce fruit juice to no more than one cup a day. Completely eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks.

  Eat a healthful type of protein at most meals, such as beans, fish, or skinless chicken.

  Choose foods with healthful fats, such as olive oil, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), and avocados. Limit saturated fats from dairy and other animal products. Completely eliminate partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats), which are in fast food and many packaged foods.

  Have three meals and one or two snacks each day, and don’t skip breakfast.

  Eat slowly and stop when full.

Adapted from Ending the Food Fight, by David Ludwig with Suzanne Rostler (Houghton Mifflin, 2008).


Cody Mooneyha

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Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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