Researchers to pinpoint relationship between obesity-associated diabetes and heart disease

The rise in obesity, now at epidemic levels in the United States, has been matched by a rise in diabetes, a deadly combination that increases heart disease risk by two to five times. Research has shown an association between obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes, and it's believed that insulin resistance plays an important role in the development of heart disease. Experts are just now beginning to understand how these conditions are linked.

With the support of a $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Temple University diabetes expert Guenther Boden, M.D., will examine how obesity-associated diabetes leads to cardiovascular disease, in hopes of ultimately breaking this dangerous progression.

Common among all obese people to varying degrees, insulin resistance prevents insulin from performing its job, which is to take the sugar from food and distribute it throughout the body for energy.

"Up to 80 percent of obese people compensate for their insulin resistance by oversecreting insulin and therefore don't become diabetic. In the remaining 15-20 percent, however, the pancreas is unable to compensate for insulin resistance and they become diabetic," says Boden, a Laura H. Carnell professor of medicine and chief of the division of endocrinology/diabetes/metabolism at Temple University School of Medicine.

"Over the years, we've determined that a major link between obesity and insulin resistance is a high level of free fatty acids," Boden says. "When the levels of free fatty acids circulating in the blood stream are too high, which is usually the case in obesity, they cause insulin resistance and seem to simultaneously set off inflammation. Inflammation may provide the missing link to heart disease." The researchers will examine the inflammatory process, particularly what triggers it and what inhibits it. Previously, they demonstrated that in lean people, elevated free fatty acids cause insulin resistance and start

Contact: Eryn Jelesiewicz
Temple University

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