NPR logo Fatty Diets Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

Fatty Diets Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

Scientists say they've found out how a high-fat diet can trigger Type 2 diabetes. Their report is in the journal Cell.

Researchers have long assumed that many genes go awry in diabetes. But scientists in California and Japan say they've found one of the key genes. It's called GNT4A. It's responsible for making an enzyme that the pancreas needs to sense blood sugar. When blood sugar rises after a meal, the pancreas releases insulin. That allows the sugar to be used for energy or stored.

But when the pancreas can't sense blood sugar properly, it over-compensates by pumping out more insulin. High levels of insulin eventually make cells resistant to insulin. That is Type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that mice on a high-fat diet produce less of the crucial enzyme. They hope a drug that increases output of the enzyme might make susceptible people less likely to develop diabetes. — Richard Knox

Some Patients Get Too Much of Heart Attack Drugs

Dec. 28, 2005 — Patients with small but serious heart attacks sometimes receive too much of a vital medicine, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Many heart attacks start when an arterial wall bursts because of pressure from fats that have built up within the artery's wall. A blood clot forms to seal up the burst, and that clot blocks blood flow in the artery.

Anti-clotting drugs can prevent the blockage. Doses have to be carefully calculated, based on the weight and health of each individual patient. Otherwise, patients may suffer bleeding into the stomach or brain, or at catheter sites — rarely lethal conditions, but difficult to manage.

Researchers from several U.S. medical centers studied nearly 8,000 people who had received blood thinners. Forty-two percent had received too much. The researchers estimate that 18,000 people a year in the United States may suffer avoidable bleeding episodes. — Joanne Silberner

Foods Rich in Antioxidants May Protect Vision

Dec. 27, 2005 — Eating the right foods may reduce the risk of getting one of the leading causes of blindness in old age, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Four vitamins seemed to reduce the risk of getting age-related macular degeneration. Researchers in the Netherlands studied the diets of 4,000 people and followed some of them for as long as 14 years. They had a 35 percent lower risk of developing macular degeneration when they ate foods rich in Vitamins C and E, beta carotene and zinc.

That's good news for people who eat a lot of citrus fruit, broccoli, spinach, carrots, eggs, nuts, vegetable oil and whole grains.

The scientists speculate that it's the anti-oxidant properties of the vitamins that make the difference. Antioxidants are compounds known to prevent cell damage.

Earlier research suggested taking high doses of vitamin supplements could slow the progression of macular degeneration. — Joseph Shapiro