Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Type 2 Diabetes May Be a Disease of Your Body Clock

We have been saying that type 2 diabetes, at least at first, may be a disease of bad timing. The pancreas has the ability to produce the insulin that the body needs to keep blood sugar levels normal after eating, but it just can't produce it in time. Now scientists have more to say about this theory.

Scientists from Northwestern University in Chicago publishing their findings in the prestigous journal Nature report that the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas have their own "clocks" that tell them when to secrete insulin. If something goes wrong with the clock, as they caused to happen in lab animals, then diabetes develops.

Eating out of sync with your beta-cells may not be the entire reason people develop type 2, but it may be an important reason. If you are eating now, and your pancreas is secreting insulin a lot later, then you will have an interval in which your blood sugar levels run high. During this time, cells all over your body (although not in the brain, the testicles, or the ovaries) shut down their portals for insulin to move sugar inside. This protects the cell from "flaming out" by burning too much sugar. The sugar stays in the bloodstream, and the pancreas get the message it needs to work even harder.

If the beta-cell "clock" is not working, however, then the influx of insulin won't be enough to keep blood glucose levels down after eating but it may be too much in the middle of the night. So what is a diabetic to do?

The best way to keep your insulin-producing cells from working at the wrong time is to get enough sleep, at the very least six uninterrupted hours every night. Not getting enough "slow-wave," deep sleep leads to insulin in just the same way that eating too many fats and sugars does. Sleep deprivation also leads to weight gain.

Go to bed and get up on a regular schedule. If you don't "sleep in" when you go to bed late, you won't have trouble getting to sleep the next night. Be sure your bedroom is sleep-friendly: dark, quiet, and free of TV and the Internet. Get exercise, but at least three hours before bedtime, and don't consume caffeine in the evening if you want to enjoy easy sleep.

Selected Reference:

Marcheva B, Ramsey KM, Buhr ED, Kobayashi Y, Su H, Ko CH, et al.( 2010. Disruption of the clock components CLOCK and BMAL1 leads to hypoinsulinaemia and diabetes. Nature 466(7306):627-631.

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