Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer have a way of taking the life of overweight and obese people much earlier than the life of slim people. Scientists at the Medical University of Graz, in Austria, might have found the reason. When our cells divide, tiny structures called telomeres are involved in moving chromosomes to the “new” daughter cells. With each cell division, telomeres grow shorter, and shortness has to do with aging. The University of Graz, Austria, in March 2019, in the journal Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, reported on the link between fat tissue and its distribution of the shortened telomeres.

Researchers measured telomere length in the white blood cells of three hundred and seventy-five participants: they compared the telomere length with the amount and location of fat at fifteen sites. Telomere length was shortest in those who had high levels of fat in their…

  • neck,
  • upper arms,
  • upper back,
  • chest,
  • abdominal area,
  • hips,
  • thighs, and
  • calves.

It was found neck and hip fat were linked strongly with shortened telomeres. From these results, the investigators concluded excess fat is linked with the shortening of telomeres.

Medications used for treating diabetes have also been linked with telomere shortening. In January of 2019, the journal Aging reported on a study performed at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Hubei, China, and Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangdong, China. Telomeres in the white blood cells of three hundred and eighty-eight people with Type 2 diabetes were measured…

  • Type 2 diabetics not taking medications had significantly shorter telomeres than treated diabetics.
  • Type 2 diabetics treated with acarbose had shorter telomeres than those treated with other medicines.

From these results, the researchers concluded acarbose might have an aging effect.

In February of 2019, the Journal of Diabetes Complications reported on a study linking insulin treatment with telomere shortening. Investigators at the Capital Medical University in Beijing, China, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Science in Beijing, China, paid close attention to sixty-four people who had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes six years earlier. None had received insulin at the beginning of the study. Average telomere length decreased, although it lengthened in a small number of individuals. Out of 18 of the participants who had received insulin during the six years…

  • 16 showed decreased telomere length, and
  • 2 showed increased telomere length.

Insulin users were more than 17 times more likely to have telomere shortening than non-users. The use of insulin with high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels were connected with telomere shortening as well.

Although medications are necessary for many people who have been given a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, controlling blood sugar levels without medications might be one way to increase their life expectancy, based on telomere studies.

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