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Vitamin D can help tackle diabetes

Raghu Kshitiz

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Boosting vitamin D — often referred to as the sunshine vitamin because it is created in our skin in response to direct sunlight — can help tackle diabetes, according to a study from the Salk Institute.

The condition is caused by faulty beta cells in the pancreas. These cells manufacture and release insulin, the hormone essential for controlling glucose levels in the blood.

If beta cells produce too little insulin, or none at all, glucose can accumulate in the blood at levels that are toxic to cells and tissues.

Researchers from the Salk Institute have reported a potential new approach for treating diabetes by protecting beta cells.

Previous studies have found a connection between low vitamin D levels and a higher risk of diabetes, but the mechanisms involved have been challenging to unravel.

The researchers found that a particular compound — called iBRD9 — boosted the activity of vitamin D receptors when they were bound to vitamin D molecules. This had a protective effect on the beta cells.

They demonstrated that, in a mouse model of diabetes, iBRD9 brought glucose levels back down into the normal range.

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When beta cells become dysfunctional, the body can’t make insulin to control blood sugar (glucose) and levels of glucose can rise to dangerous, even fatal, levels.

“We know that diabetes is a disease caused by inflammation,” explained senior author Ronald Evans adding, “In this study, we identified the vitamin D receptor as an important modulator of both inflammation and beta cell survival.”

The team accomplished this by conducting a screening test to look for compounds that improved the survival of beta cells in a dish. They then tested the combination in a mouse model of diabetes and showed that it could bring glucose back to normal levels in the animals.

“This study started out by looking at the role of vitamin D in beta cells,” said first author Zong Wei. “Epidemiological studies in patients have suggested a correlation between high vitamin D concentrations in the blood and a lower risk of diabetes, but the underlying mechanism was not well understood. It’s been hard to protect beta cells with the vitamin alone. We now have some ideas about how we might be able to take advantage of this connection.”

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The underlying process has to do with transcription the way that genes are translated into proteins. Combining the new compound with vitamin D allowed certain protective genes to be expressed at much higher levels than they are in diseased cells.

The discovery’s implications can have far-reaching implications: It identifies a basic mechanism that can be translated into drugging many different targets in the clinic.

The findings appeared in the journal Cell.

With Agency Inputs

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Women with diabetes have higher cancer risk : Study

Raghu Kshitiz

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SYDNEY — The increased risk of cancer in people with diabetes is higher for women than men, according to a major study by Australian researchers.

Women with diabetes were also at greater risk than men of getting leukemia and stomach, mouth and kidney cancers, the George Institute for Global Health medical research group said in a statement on Friday.

Previous research identified the link between diabetes and cancer risk, but this study looked at whether that risk differs between men and women.

Among people with diabetes, women have a 6 percent higher risk of cancer than men, the researchers said in the study, published in the journal Diabetologia.

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For women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the cancer risk is 27 percent higher compared to other women. And men with diabetes have a 19 percent higher cancer risk than men who don’t have the blood sugar disease, the findings showed.

And, for men the risk was 19 percent higher. The numbers “highlight the need for more research into the role diabetes plays in developing cancer” and “demonstrate the increasing importance of sex specific research,” said the researchers.

And based on the researchers’ analysis of data from 47 studies, diabetics of both sexes are at greater risk of cancer than people without diabetes.

“Further studies are needed to clarify the mechanisms underlying the sex differences in the diabetes-cancer association,” the study authors concluded.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 8.7 million deaths in 2015. About one in four women and one in three men will develop cancer during their lifetime, the study authors noted in a journal news release.

Similary, diabetes affects more than 415 million people worldwide, with 5 million deaths linked to it every year.

With Inputs from Agency

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