Link between diabetes, high-fat diet clarified

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The link between high-fat diets and Type 2 diabetes has been known for a long time, but researchers at the University of North Carolina said they’ve found out how that link occurs.

Led by UNC at Chapel Hill School of Medicine professor Jenny Ting, the team found that the key contributor to Type 2 diabetes is a diet high in saturated fat, but not unsaturated fat. Such diets cause immune cells to produce interleukin-1beta, an inflammatory protein.

“The cellular path that mediates fatty acid metabolism is also the one that causes interleukin-1beta production,” Ting said. “Interleukin-1beta then acts on tissues and organs, such as the liver, muscle and fat, to turn off their response to insulin, making them insulin-resistant. As a result, activation of this pathway by fatty acid can lead to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes symptoms.”

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