Scientists explore metabolic events that may contribute to diabetes development

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Surplus sugar may reduce energy output at cellular level

A team of researchers at the Van Andel Institute in the US has found that surplus sugar may cause our cellular powerplants — called mitochondria— to become less efficient, reducing their energy ouput.

The findings, published in Cell Reports, highlight the cellular implications of excessive sugar consumption and provide an important new model to study the initial metabolic events that may contribute to diabetes development.

Using their new model, the scientists demonstrated that excess glucose reduces the concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in the mitochondrial membrane and makes mitochondria less efficient.

PUFAs are vital players in supporting mitochondrial function and mediating a host of other biological processes such as inflammation, blood pressure and cellular communication.

“The body needs sugar, or glucose, to survive, but, as the saying goes: ‘All good things in moderation’,” said Ning Wu, PhD, an assistant professor at Van Andel Institute and corresponding author of the study. “We found that too much glucose in cells, which is directly linked to the amount of sugar consumed in one’s diet, affects lipid composition throughout the body, which in turn affects the integrity of mitochondria. The overall effect is a loss of optimal function.”

While the study does not offer medical recommendations, it does illuminate the early stages of metabolic disease and provides insights that may shape future prevention and therapeutic efforts.


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