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Opinions of Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Columnist: Arthur, Patrick Kobina

High prevalence of Diabetes in Ghana: Effect of High Fat Diet

Diabetes mellitus represents one of the non-infectious diseases with high
prevalence in Ghana, it affects people who are mostly between 35-60 years.
It is a metabolic disease that affects glucose homeostasis; which simply
means the control of the level of glucose in the blood during the hours when
we are well fed and starving is defective. Normally, the body acts through
the hormone insulin to store excess glucose when we are well fed and then
cause a slow releasing when starving. This balance is tightly control to
ensure that glucose levels in the blood is maintained.

**Untimely production and insufficient levels of insulin**

Diabetes mellitus occurs in two forms, type-one (mostly congenital) is when
the production of insulin is disrupted and type-two (insulin resistance)
when the insulin is produced all right but it fails to achieve the desire
effect. Type-two diabetes also occurs because of untimed production and
insufficient levels of insulin, which is now partly known to be due to the
negative effect of high fat diet. The recent discovery of the impact of high
fat diet on the reduced production of insulin goes a long way to identify
some of the specific processes that cause the type-two diabetes mellitus.
The link between high fat diet, obesity and diabetes has long been known but
not the exact factors responsible.

**Reactive Glucose**

The reason that makes high level of glucose dangerous to the body is that
glucose is very reactive compared to sugar compounds like fructose. When
glucose stays in the blood at a high level for too long it can becomes
cross-linked to many other molecules especially proteins. This process is
responsible for many of the symptoms in the sufferer’s body. The cure for
the complex disease of diabetes is the most sought after due to the high
prevalence the world over and especially in Ghana.

**Effect of high fat diet on the insulin producing cells in the Pancreas**

The new discovery by Ohtsubo and colleagues at the University of California
– Santa Barbara and published in the journal Nature Medicine, describes for
the first that high fat diet leads to disruption of certain processes in the
beta cells of the pancreas. This disruption results in the reduction of the
capacity of the pancreatic beta cells to sense glucose levels accurately and
to produce the correct levels of insulin in a timely manner. This effect is
also seen when the levels of free fatty acids are elevated by other
processes apart from diet, this strongly suggest that type-two diabetes
occurring later in life is due in part to elevated fat levels in the blood.

**High fat diet blocks the breakdown of fat in the body**

In a related development, a large team of researcher lead by Prof. Eric
Verdin of the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco – California, report
another groundbreaking discovery which show that high fat diet blocks the
process by which fat if broken down to yield energy for the body. This
discovery (reported in the Molecular Cell Journal) demonstrates a rather
paradoxical relationship between high fat diet and the processes needed to
break down fat especially in the liver. The gene affected by high fat diet
can be defective individuals who show childhood obesity however; people with
the correct version of this gene can develop dysfunctional fat breakdown
process due to high fat diet.
**Diabetes and Lifestyle**
The two groundbreaking discoveries demonstrates clearly that high fat diet
has a negative feedback on processes the is required for the regulation of
blood glucose level. The persistent elevated fat level in the blood disrupts
the process by which the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas sense
blood level glucose. This sensing process is vital to the control of the
released of the correct amounts of insulin timely to regulate blood glucose
levels. It appears high fat diet is a two-edged sword that blocks breakdown
of fat and also leads to elevated fat levels in the blood which disrupts the
glucose sensing function of beta cells of the pancreas. The take home
message is the high fat diet is not good especially for people above 30
years, since it is strongly linked to diabetes and coronary diseases.

Patrick Kobina Arthur (PhD),