Of particular interest to those with a fatty liver, researchers have identified a liver hormone that is integral to insulin resistance. This discovery could lead to new therapeutic options benefiting a wide range of health conditions, including fatty liver disease.
In medical training seminars, scientific research facilities and clinical health settings, insulin resistance is getting an increasing amount of attention. A precursor to the ever growing epidemic of Type II diabetes and a major component of metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance is also closely related to fatty liver disease. Due to a recent breakthrough in understanding insulin resistance, there is renewed hope for developing new, targeted therapies to treat Type II diabetes and a fatty liver.
About Insulin Resistance
Insulin is a hormone that is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy. Released by the pancreas, insulin pushes glucose out of the bloodstream and into the body’s cells. When these cells receive glucose, they convert it to energy. Without proper functioning of insulin, glucose builds up in the blood where it can lead to a wide range of health problems. Insulin resistance describes this pattern, where glucose does not gain proper entrance into the cells.
Insulin resistance often strikes those who:
· are overweight
· live an inactive, sedentary lifestyle
· eat a diet rich in sugar and fat
However, scientists have also identified specific genes that increase the likelihood of developing insulin resistant cells.
While it increases the risk of developing Type II diabetes, insulin resistance is also associated with a wide range of other health conditions. Having several of these conditions together is generally referred to as metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors that affect an estimated 50 million Americans. Insulin resistance dominates metabolic syndrome; however, other associated conditions, include:
· abdominal obesity
· high blood pressure
· fatty liver disease
· high cholesterol and blood triglycerides
In extreme cases of insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus develops. Approximately 70 percent of diabetics have some form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Affecting an estimated one quarter to one third of American adults, experts believe that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease represents the liver manifestations of insulin resistance.
Chipping Away at Insulin Resistance
Improving the balance of glucose in the blood by reducing insulin resistance has emerged as a top priority within the medical community. Especially because metabolic syndrome is so prevalent and paves the way for a variety of lifelong, severe health conditions, an assortment of treatment possibilities are being entertained. Top contenders include healthy lifestyle interventions and medications currently being used for diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. However, our understanding of insulin resistance still has many gaps.
Thanks to the diligence of investigators, a breakthrough of sorts on this subject has recently emerged. As published in a November 2010 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, Japanese researchers identified a key hormone in insulin resistance with strong ties to the liver. According to Hirofumi Misu of Kanazawa University Graduate School of Medical Science in Japan, “The current study sheds light on a previously underexplored function of the liver; the liver participates in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance through hormone secretion.”
The researchers reported the following:
· The liver expresses higher levels of the hormone selenoprotein P in people with Type II diabetes who are more insulin resistant.
· Blood levels of selenoprotein P are also increased in people with diabetes compared to healthy people.
· Studies in mice showed that the connection between selenoprotein P and insulin resistance is causal.
· When mice were given selenoprotein P, they became insulin resistant and their blood sugar levels rose.
· A treatment that blocked the activity of selenoprotein P in the livers of diabetic and obese mice improved their sensitivity to insulin and lowered blood sugar levels.
The researchers concluded that selenoprotein P could be a new target for treating insulin resistance and Type II diabetes. Although they did not specifically discuss non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, its association with these conditions mean that any future therapy capable of lowering insulin resistance and diabetes would also bode well for a fatty liver.
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http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4756, Metabolic Syndrome, Retrieved November 21, 2010, American Heart Association, 2010.
http://www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/insulinresistance/#cause, Insulin Resistance and Pre-Diabetes, Retrieved November 21, 2010, National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, 2010.
http://www.liversupport.com/wordpress/2006/05/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease-and-insulin-resistance/, How to Prevent a Fatty Liver, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved November 21, 2010, Natural Wellness, 2010.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21035759, A liver-derived secretory protein, selenoprotein P, causes insulin resistance, Misu H, et al., Retrieved November 21, 2010, Cell Metabolism, November 2010.