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Could a popular food ingredient increase the risk of diabetes and obesity?



  Baked Goods
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The consumption of propionate, a food ingredient widely used in baked goods, animal feed and artificial flavorings, appears to increase the level of various hormones associated with a risk of obesity and diabetes, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in collaboration with researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Sheba Medical Center in Israel.

The study, which combined data from a randomized, placebo-controlled study in human and mouse studies, suggested that propionate may trigger a metabolic cascade leading to insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, a condition characterized by high levels of insulin. The results also showed that exposure to chronic propionate in mice resulted in weight gain and insulin resistance.

The study is published online in Science Translational Medicine on April 24, 201

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Understanding How food ingredients affect the body's metabolism at the molecular and cellular levels could help us develop simple yet effective measures to combat the two epidemics of obesity and diabetes, said Gökhan S. Hotamisligil, James Stevens Simmons , Professor of Genetics and Metabolism, the Sabri-Ulker Center for Metabolism Research at Harvard Chan School.

More than 400 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, and the diabetes incidence rate is set to increase by 40% by 2040, despite extensive efforts to stem the disease. The rising rates of diabetes and obesity over the last 50 years show that environmental and nutritional factors must influence the growth of this epidemic. Researchers have suggested that dietary components, including ingredients used to prepare or preserve foods, can contribute, but these molecules are rarely studied.

For this study, researchers focused on propionate, a naturally occurring short-chain fatty acid that helps prevent mold growth on food. They first administered this short-chain fatty acid to mice and found that it rapidly activated the sympathetic nervous system, leading to an increase in hormones, including glucagon, norepinephrine and a newly discovered gluconeogenic hormone called fatty acid-binding protein 4 (FABP4). , This in turn led the mice to produce more glucose from their liver cells, leading to hyperglycemia – a hallmark of diabetes. In addition, the researchers found that chronic treatment of mice with a dose of propionate equal to the amount typically consumed by humans results in significant weight gain in mice as well as insulin resistance. The researchers conducted a double – blind, placebo – controlled study of 14 healthy volunteers. Participants were randomized into two groups: one group received a meal containing one gram of propionate as an adjunct, and the other group received a meal containing placebo. Blood samples were collected before the meal, within 15 minutes of eating the meal and every 30 minutes thereafter for four hours.

Researchers found that those who consumed the propionate-containing meal had a significant increase in norepinephrine and an increase in glucagon and FABP4 shortly after eating. The results suggest that propionate may act as a "metabolic blocker" that may increase the risk of diabetes and obesity in humans. The researchers found that while propionate is generally recognized as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration, these new findings justify further investigation of propionate and possible alternatives that could be used in food preparation.

"The dramatic increase in obesity and diabetes over the past 50 years suggests the involvement of environmental and nutritional factors, and one of the factors that attracts attention is the ingredients found in ordinary foods." Every day, we use hundreds of these chemicals "Amir Tirosh, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Director of the Department of Endocrinology at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel and Research Fellow at Harvard Chan School."


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Further information:
A. Tirosh et al., "The Short Chain Fatty Acid Propionate Increases Glucagon Production and Insulin Resistance in Mice and Humans" Science Translational Medicine (2019). stm.sciencemag.org/lookup/doi/… scitranslmed.aav0120

Provided by
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health




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Could a popular food ingredient increase the risk of diabetes and obesity? (2019, April 24)
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