Researchers report that over-the-counter allergy and asthma drugs helped obese and diabetic mice lose weight and control their blood sugar.
Three other studies strongly linked obesity and Type-2 diabetes to a dysfunctional immune system, and researchers said these findings could lead to better drugs or perhaps even vaccines to treat the effects of both conditions.
Rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes are surging around the world as people eat more and exercise less. The four studies published in the journal Nature Medicine help explain how obesity might cause diabetes and how the two together can cause organ damage, heart disease and death.
Guo-Ping Shi, a Biochemist from the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the United States and colleagues found that mast cells — the immune cells that get out of control in allergy and asthma — were abundant in fat tissues of obese and diabetic people and mice.
A group of papers appearing in Nature’s Medicine show an interesting and promising link between the immune system, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Although chronic inflammation in the body has already been linked to heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, this latest research gives us a better understanding of the relationship between inflammation and metabolic disorders. Learning more about these relationships could lead to potential treatment recommendations for obesity and diabetes.
In the first study, Shi and colleagues divided obese mice into four groups (a control group, a healthy diet group, an allergy drug group and a healthy diet and allergy drug group). After two months, the group given the allergy medicine showed significant improvements in both weight and Type 2 diabetes and the group fed a healthy diet and given allergy medicine showed almost 100% improvement “in all areas” according to the researchers.
“The best thing about these drugs is that we know it’s safe for people,” Shi said. “The remaining question now is: Will this also work for people?”
A second study from researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Joslin Diabetes Center found a type of immune regulatory cell (T-cell or Treg) that was abundant in the belly fat of normal weight humans and mice, but almost absent in the belly fat of diabetic or obese humans and mice. In addition, obese and diabetic fat tissue was full of inflammatory macrophages and “it’s possible that the inflammation caused by macrophages results in insulin resistance“ states Steven Shoelson, HMS professor of medicine at the Joslin Diabetes Center. So the T-cell’s needed to fight the inflammatory macrophages are not present in obese tissue, leading researchers to believe this could be part of the reason obesity leads to other diseases like diabetes.
Harvard pathology professor Diane Mathis and colleagues found T-cells were abundant in the abdominal fat tissue of normal-weight humans and mice, but absent in obese and diabetic humans and mice.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease — one in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. The studies in Nature Medicine suggest that Type 2 diabetes and obesity also involve the immune system.
Michael Dosch of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, and colleagues made similar findings. It may be possible to vaccinate people against Type 2 diabetes, they suggested.
So, what does this all mean? Until more research can be done on human subjects it’s hard to say how these findings will translate. However, you can start incorporating some healthy, “anti-inflammatory” lifestyle principles today. To reduce inflammation:
- Include as much fresh food as possible in your diet and avoid processed foods and fast food.
- Eat an abundance of colorful fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are full of anti-inflammatory plant chemicals and fiber.
- Increase your intake of whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa.
- Include a variety of beans, winter squashes and sweet potatoes in your diet.
- Avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, trans fat or high amounts of saturated fat (fat that comes from animal sources).
- Include healthy fats such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.) in your diet.
- Choose organic products whenever possible.
- Season your foods generously with anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like garlic, ginger, tumeric, cayenne, thyme and rosemary.
- Drink at least 6-8 glasses of filtered water every day.
- Limit caffeine. Instead, choose herbal teas, especially green and black tea.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. If you do drink alcohol, try to make it red wine.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Participate in stress reducing activities like yoga or meditation and do aerobic exercise on a regular basis.
Incorporate some of these simple guidelines to reduce inflammation and potentially reduce your risk for a variety of chronic diseases!