Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the body either does not make enough insulin or becomes resistant to insulin, preventing it from storing sugar thus increasing the body's sugar levels to beyond what is normal and healthy. There are currently more than 194 million people with diabetes worldwide, according to the International Diabetes Federation, and if nothing is done to slow the epidemic, the number will exceed 333 million by 2025.
Experts have long cited growing incidence of obesity as the trigger for the rise in diabetes but this new study is the first to link a hormone with blood sugar levels.
The study, published in this month's Journal of Endocrinology, found that diabetes in obese mice requires a hormone known as MSH, which is made by the POMC gene that is found in both mice and humans. The study found that obese mice without the MSH hormone were obese but did not develop diabetes. Administration of the MSH hormone to these mice increased resistance to insulin and directly affected blood sugar levels. Therefore, MSH may be a factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.
"Our findings show that obese people with high levels of the hormone MSH may be more likely to be diabetic than obese people with low levels of the MSH hormone," explained the study's lead author Miles B. Brennan, from the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute at the University of Denver in the US. "While we knew that there was a connection between obesity and diabetes, this is the first time that the link between the hormone MSH and blood sugar levels has been established."
The study could lead to testing the MSH hormone levels in obese individuals which would allow doctors to better prevent the onset of diabetes if the levels are too high.