SODIUM | If Type 2 Diabetes and obesity run
rampant in your family, you might already have
resigned yourself to an inevitable future of carb-counting and glucose checks.
But predisposition doesn’t necessarily mean
predestination, and so researchers such as Tara
Henagan, an assistant professor of nutrition, are
examining how epigenetics — the effect of the
external environment on our genes — influence
the development of metabolic syndrome.
In one experiment, Henagan fed three separate
groups of mice a normal, low-fat diet, a high-fat diet and a high-fat diet supplemented with
sodium butyrate, respectively. Then she studied
their effects on the Pgc1a — a gene which
regulates genes involved in energy metabolism.
In addition to improving insulin sensitivity, the
sodium butyrate actually helped prevent obesity
even when the mice consumed a high-fat diet. In
fact, the sodium butyrate combined with a high-fat diet was “strikingly similar” on an epigenetic
level to the effects of a low-fat diet without
supplementation, she and her co-authors wrote.
Clinical studies may show that sodium butyrate
has similar effects on humans who consume high-fat diets or who have obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.
Meanwhile, Henagan is digging deeper into
the epigenetics. “Understanding the epigenetic
mechanisms whereby nutrition and physical
activity regulate nuclear gene expression is crucial
in understanding, treating and preventing obesity
and Type 2 Diabetes,” she says. | A.R.
Turning Off the Genes for Metabolic Syndrome
SODIUM F R