Diabetes researcher Kaushik Desai
Photo by Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation
The work by Kaushik Desai and Lily Wu, professors in the U of S College of Medicine's Department of Pharmacology, focused on methylglyoxal (MG), which is produced naturally as the body metabolizes glucose consumed in carbohydrates.
What they have found is that high levels of MG produce all the features of Type 2 diabetes, including damage to insulin producing cells in the pancreas, insulin resistance and impairment of body tissue to use glucose properly. Their findings are set to be published in the March issue of the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes.
"This is very exciting for us because diabetes is one of the most important health issues in North America," says Dr. Desai.
The researchers' findings come on the heels of the statistic showing that in 2008, 1.66 million Canadians have diabetes, compared to 1.22 million in 2003 - a 36 per cent increase in just five years. By 2010, the number of cases in Canada is expected to be three million with particular concern for Aboriginal people.
Many cases are appearing with no history or genetic cause of diabetes, says Desai, "so it comes down to what we're eating and drinking."
While the high-fat, high-carbohydrate North American diet has always been a suspect in the development of the disease, the underlying mechanisms have eluded researchers until now.
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University of Saskatchewan