Fruit compounds may yield new treatment for obesity, diabetes and heart disease

Combining substances found in red grapes and oranges could yield a treatment beneficial to some patients, study finds; genetic finds about brain tumours in dogs may help humans

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 May, 2016, 2:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 May, 2016, 12:20pm

A combination of two compounds found in red grapes and oranges could be used to improve the health of people with diabetes, and reduce cases of obesity and heart disease. When given jointly at pharmaceutical doses once a day for eight weeks to 32 overweight and obese study participants, the compounds acted in tandem to decrease blood glucose, improve the action of insulin and improve the health of arteries.

Genetic factors leave Asian-Americans at heightened risk of diabetes despite being less likely to be obese

Researchers at the University of Warwick in Britain who conducted the study, published in the journal Diabetes, hope their discovery will be developed to provide a treatment for patients. The two compounds – trans-resveratrol found in red grapes and hesperetin in oranges – act by increasing a protein called glyoxalase 1 (Glo1) in the body which neutralises a sugar-derived compound called methylglyoxal, a major contributor to the damaging effects of sugar.

The study participants, aged between 18 and 80 years old, were given the supplement in capsule form once a day for eight weeks and were asked to maintain their usual diet and physical activity levels. The researchers found that highly overweight subjects, who had body mass indexes of over 27.5, displayed increased Glo1 activity, decreased glucose levels, improved working of insulin, improved artery function and decreased blood vessel inflammation. There was no placebo effect.

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Lead researcher Professor Paul Thornalley says: “As exciting as our breakthrough is it is important to stress that physical activity, diet, other lifestyle factors and current treatments should be adhered to.”

Babies born to mothers with diabetes have more body fat

Babies born to mothers who suffer gestational diabetes during pregnancy have 16 per cent more body fat when two months old than babies born to healthy mothers, even though they had similar body fat at birth, a new study by researchers at Imperial College London shows. The reasons are unknown, but possible explanations include changes in the baby’s metabolism in the womb, or even differences in the composition of breast milk in mothers-to-be with gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes in mothers-to-be is becoming more common, and babies born to these mothers are at increased risk of developing diabetes when they grow up. Reseachers therefore need to understand what effects gestational diabetes has on the baby.

“This new study suggests diabetes in the mother can trigger changes in the baby at a very early stage,” says Dr Karen Logan, lead author of the study, conducted at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London.

Scientists used MRI scanning to measure body fat in 42 babies whose mothers had gestational diabetes, and 44 babies born to mothers without the condition as a healthy control group. The readings were taken shortly after birth, and again when the babies were eight to 12 weeks old. Gestational diabetes could be caused by excess weight, genetic predisposition or other factors, and results in a woman’s blood sugar levels becoming too high. It usually starts when the woman is around seven months pregnant and typically resolves soon after giving birth – though the woman may be at elevated risk of type 2 diabetes later in life.

Study of dogs’ susceptibility to brain tumours may yield insights for humans

A new study of the genetic factors underlying the formation of a common type of brain tumour in dogs may hold clues to how these common and often untreatable tumours form in humans. The genome study, which was conducted across 25 dog breeds, identified three genes associated with gliomas, the most common form of malignant primary brain tumours in humans and the second most common in dogs.

Several dog breeds such as boxer, bulldog and Boston terrier, have an elevated risk of developing glioma, while certain related breeds do not, suggesting that a mix of genes may affect glioma formation.

To identify genetic variations that contribute to the tumours’ development, scientists in Sweden performed a genome-wide association study using blood samples from 39 dogs diagnosed with glioma and 141 control dogs. By screening for variations commonly found in dogs that developed gliomas, they pinpointed three genes highly associated with susceptibility to the tumour. Two of these genes have additional links to cancer.

The scientists are now continuing the analysis of the genes identified, and their functional roles in development and progression of glioma in both dogs and humans.