Origins of diabetes may be different in men and women, according to new research

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Over the past four decades, the number of Type 2 diabetes cases worldwide has risen dramatically. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people estimated to have the disease jumped from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014, with the fastest growth observed in low- and middle-income countries.

Although the disease is widespread, there is still much to be learned. Although diabetes is often linked to obesity, the exact causes of diabetes are still unknown.

In a paper published in the journal Obesity Reviews, Concordia researchers Kerri Delaney and Sylvia Santosa look at how fat tissue from different parts of the body may lead to diabetes onset in men and women. They reviewed nearly 200 000 scientific papers in an effort to gain a deeper understanding about how fat functions at the tissue and surface levels, and the mechanisms that lead to diabetes onset.

“There are many theories on how diabetes develops. But the one we explore is that different regions in fat tissue contribute to disease risk differently,” says Kerri Delane, Concordia’s Ph.D. candidate and the paper’s leading author. “So, the big question is how do different depots contribute to diabetes development and is this contribution different in women and men?”

From the surface to the level of the cell

Women and men store different amounts of fat. As with many other diseases and conditions, diabetes is closely tied to abdominal fat. It is common for women to store this fat under their skin. This is called subcutaneous fat. The abdominal fat is stored around organs in men. This is called visceral fat.

Fat may have different characteristics in men and women. They grow differently, are distributed differently, and interact differently with the immune system and inflammatory systems. Fat tissue expands in men because fat cells get larger, while fat cells in women multiply and increase in numbers. This is possible because men are more likely to develop diabetes later in life than women due to the loss of estrogen, the protective hormone that helps prevent it.

The researchers began by assuming that diabetes risk is driven in part by an increase in visceral fat in men, and subcutaneous fat for women. They then examined the papers to determine what was happening in the microenvironments of cells.

While more research is needed on this topic, it was clear that there were differences in the immune cell, hormone, signaling, and cell level between men and women. These differences may indicate that there may be different causes for diabetes in each sexe.

Delaney & Santosa hope to identify the differences in diabetes risks between men and females so that clinical approaches to treating the disease can better be defined.

Santosa, an associate faculty in the department Health, Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, says that “currently, the treatment for diabetes is similar for men and woman.” “If we understood the differences better, we could consider these mechanisms when recommending treatments for men and women based upon how diabetes medications work.”

Only for women: A weight loss treatment

More information:
Kerri Z. Delaney and colleagues, Different threats to Type 2 diabetes development in males and women are presented by regional adipose tissues depots based on sex. Obesity Reviews (2022). DOI: 10.1111/obr.13393

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Concordia University

According to new research (2022 and March 23), the origins of diabetes may differ in men and women.
Retrieved 23 March 2022
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