Harvard Heart Letter

One reason for diabetes identified

A biological mechanism that enabled our prehistoric ancestors to survive times of famine may explain why some people develop type II diabetes. It all has to do with the way our bodies store fat.

Researchers in California discovered that a protein called fibroblast growth factor-1 (FGF1) helps the body metabolize fat. The protein enables a body to hold fat in reserve and dole it out over time by regulating insulin to help maintain normal blood sugar levels. This ensures we have energy at all times, even when our food intake is irregular.

When the protein is missing or defective, the process breaks down. The researchers found that when mice who lacked the FGF1 protein were fed a diet high in fat and sugar, they quickly developed an aggressive form of diabetes.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »