A new study has found a connection between enlarging fat cells and type 2 diabetes . The research, by scientists at Cambridge University, showed that fat cells of morbidly obese people are unable to store fat beyond a certain limit. Once this limit is reached, natural processes that stop fat cells from getting bigger can activate chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cancer .
The study into these metabolic changes, which was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and which will be published in the International Journal of Obesity Research, involved human gene profiling, molecular cell biology and mouse genetics to reveal that it was the secreted frizzled-related protein 1 (SFRP1) that was causing the problems.
Dr Jaswinder Sethi, of Cambridge University, commented “SFRP1 seems to be closely linked with some sort of tipping point, after which the way in which our fat tissue is regulated changes significantly and there are knock-on consequences to our wider metabolism .”
In experiments, SFRP1 was seen to determine the extent of fat cell expansion when people consumed more calories than they burnt off, while in healthy people it regulated the expansion of fat tissue. However, for the morbidly obese, it triggered large-scale metabolic changes and severe health issues when levels reduce to avoid any more fat cell expansion.

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