Published on 13 September 2018

Risk of developing type 2 diabetes could be reduced with better understanding of metabolism.

Making your body work in harmony – like a musical orchestra - could be the key to a healthier you and reduce the risk of obesity and related complications like type 2 diabetes.

Researchers in Germany and the US have looked at how metabolic processes take place in the body over the course of a day and found it is an ongoing, constant process.

This is “in order to prevent interactions between the various processes from descending into chaos,” according to researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum München in Munich and the University of California Irvine in collaboration with the German Center for Diabetes Research.

And while the body has a lot to deal with, from breaking down food into small pieces, regenerating tissue and excreting waste products, it was found that none of these processes happen in an uncontrolled manner.

A recently published report in the journal Cell concluded that all the processes are regulated by circadian (24-hour) rhythms.

Dr Dominik Lutter, group leader at the Institute for Diabetes and Obesity (IDO) at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, said: “You can think of it as in an orchestra. If you want to create a harmonious sound, the individual instruments can’t just start playing at random: they have to play in time. It’s exactly the same principle with metabolism, where the beat is dictated by the circadian rhythm.”

Researchers believed their findings could show how various pathways in the body are inter-connected and may provide a guide for weight loss treatment.

Dr. Kenneth Dyar, IDO scientist and study co-author, said: “To understand how diet impacts tissue synchronization and 24 hour metabolism we compared all this data under normal and high-fat diets. High-fat food is known to disrupt circadian rhythms and cause metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes. This temporal view of tissue metabolism gives us better insight into how metabolism is changed in metabolic conditions, for example, in the case of obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

For the study scientists generated 24-hour metabolic profiles of eight different tissues simultaneously to observe how high-fat food consumption disrupts tissue metabolism.

Dr Dyer said: “In muscle tissue, for instance, we noticed that energy generation from fat and sugar occurred separately and in a very orderly sequence under conditions of energy balance. However, under high fat diet, this typical pattern broke down completely and fat metabolism dominated. These changes have major implications for how diet can contribute to development of muscle insulin resistance.”

Dr Lutter concluded: “To come back to the image of an orchestra, we now have an initial score of the metabolism in our hand, and we understand the delicate interplay between the instruments. What we want to do next is learn how to make everyone in the orchestra play in unison if they are out of tune.”

Researchers hoped their findings could lead to the development of medication that could help people better control their metabolism.

Read the report in the journal Cell
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