ISLAMABAD: Although obesity is a risk factor for this condition, new research suggests it might only be a certain kind of fat that produces type 2 diabetes. Senior author Scott Summers, Ph.D., chairman of the University of Utah Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, believes it might be a toxic class of fat metabolites called ceramides that causes type 2 diabetes. The new research from Summer and team shows that a buildup of ceramides prevents the fat tissue from working normally in mice. When we overeat, some of the excess fat gets either stored or burned for energy. But for some people, excess fat just turns into ceramides. “Ceramides impact the way the body handles nutrients. They impair the way the body responds to insulin, and also how it burns calories.” Scott Summers, Ph.D When too many ceramides accumulate in the fat tissue, the body reaches a “tipping point,” as Summers puts it. Fat tissue stops working properly, and fat overspills into the blood vessels, heart, or goes on to damage the peripheral tissues. Ceramides have previously been linked to diabetes by at least three different mechanisms: they cause the death of pancreatic beta cells, they increase insulin resistance, and they reduce insulin gene expression. The new study further emphasizes the role of ceramides in creating insulin resistance. Adding extra ceramides to fat cells in mice made them insulin-resistant and unable to burn calories. Conversely, mice that had fewer ceramides did not develop any insulin resistance. “[The research] suggests some skinny people will get diabetes or fatty liver disease if something such as genetics triggers ceramide accumulation,” said lead author Bhagirath Chaurasia, assistant professor at the University of Utah. “Some people are just not made to deal with dietary fat,” says Summers. “It’s not just how much you eat, because some people can eat a lot and they just store all the fat effectively and remain healthy.” As a consequence, the scientists are now looking at genetic mutations that might make people predisposed to accumulating ceramides. According to the researchers, ceramide levels predict the existence of diabetes in humans better than obesity. Patients in Singapore who received gastric bypass surgery, although all obese, had different levels of ceramides in their body. Those with lower levels did not have type 2 diabetes, whereas those diagnosed with the disease had higher levels of the toxic metabolites.