If not appropriately managed, type 2 diabetes can cause significant damage to the kidneys. Now, a new study suggests eating too much junk food or a diet high in fat can cause just as much harm.
Published in the journal Experimental Psychology, the study indicates that a high-fat diet or junk food may result in an increase in blood sugar levels comparable to that which occurs with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for around 90-95 percent of all cases.
The condition arises when the body is unable to effectively use insulin – a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. This may lead to a build-up of sugar, or glucose, in the blood.
Without effective treatment, over time, the increase in blood glucose may lead to diabetic kidney disease, in which the organs are no longer able to remove waste products from the body.
This is because the kidneys are working too hard in an attempt to remove excess sugar from the blood.
Now, lead study author Dr. Havovi Chichger, senior lecturer in biomedical science at Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues suggest that consuming too much junk food or eating a diet high in fat could lead to a similar outcome.
High-fat diet, junk food increased glucose receptor levels in rats
To reach their findings, Dr. Chichger and colleagues fed rats either a high-fat chow diet – containing 60 percent fat – for 5 weeks, or a diet of junk food, including cheese, chocolate bars, and marshmallows, for 8 weeks.
The researchers assessed how these diets affected the blood sugar levels of the rodents, as well as how they affected various glucose transporters in the kidneys.
They then compared these effects with rats that had either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
The team found that the rats with type 2 diabetes had high levels of the glucose transporters GLUT and SGLT – responsible for glucose reabsorption – and their regulatory proteins.
Glucose reabsorption refers to the process by which the kidneys filter glucose and reabsorb it into the bloodstream; if there is excess glucose in the blood, then this process may be ineffective.
Interestingly, the researchers found that the rats fed the high-fat diet or junk food also showed a similar increase in the number of GLUT and SGLT receptors to the rats with type 2 diabetes.
The team believes the findings indicate that the risk of kidney damage may be just as high for people who consume an unhealthy diet as it is for individuals with type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Chichger believes the results may pave the way for new strategies to reduce blood sugar levels.
“A new treatment for diabetic patients constitutes blocking the glucose transporter in the kidney to reduce blood glucose levels. Understanding how diet can affect sugar handling in the kidneys and whether the inhibitors can reverse these changes could help to protect the kidneys from further damage.” Dr. Havovi Chichger