Processed Foods May Contribute to the Development of Type 2 Diabetes

Oral advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) promote insulin resistance and diabetes by depleting the antioxidant defenses AGE receptor-1 and sirtuin 1. Cai and colleagues. PNAS, 109:15888–15893, 2012

What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

After eating, blood glucose levels rise and, in response, the pancreas releases insulin, which is a hormone that signals the body's tissues to absorb the excess glucose from the blood. For reasons that are not entirely clear, some people develop a condition called insulin resistance in which the body's tissues begin to ignore insulin, driving up blood glucose levels, and in some cases leading to type 2 diabetes. Research suggests that tasty chemicals in processed food called advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) may trigger inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, damaging tissues and causing insulin resistance.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

The researchers hoped to tease out the mechanisms by which a diet heavy on AGEs promotes insulin resistance and diabetes.

Who was studied?

The subjects in this study were normal laboratory mice.

How was the study done?

Researchers fed two groups of mice the same amount of calories, but one group's diet contained AGEs and the other's diet did not. They monitored the rodents' insulin resistance, weight and natural antioxidant defenses.

What did the researchers find?

Mice on the diet loaded with AGEs had lower levels of antioxidants, increased inflammation, and more body fat than mice fed AGE-less diets. The AGEs also promoted premature insulin resistance in the mice.

What were the limitations of the study?

The study was done in animals; the AGE effect may be different in humans.

What are the implications of the study?

The effect of food on health may be related to more than just calories. This study suggests the AGEs, which are found in processed and grilled foods, may be an independent contributor to the development of type 2 diabetes.

  • Last Reviewed: September 13, 2013
  • Last Edited: October 7, 2013