The link between diet, type 2 diabetes and spine degeneration is to be investigated in a new study.
A team from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai believe a poor diet – often associated with type 2 diabetes – can cause inflammation of disc tissue and eventually degeneration.
The £2.5m ($3.3m) study, which is being funded by the National Institutes of Health, will involve mice.
Researchers will compare specially bred creatures alongside normal mice and see how diet affects both groups.
All the animals will be monitored for various complications that are commonly associated with type 2 diabetes, as well as their body tissue.
The three goals which the researchers hope to achieve are: establishing whether mice fed a poor diet will develop intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD); isolating the effect of diet causing changes in the tissue; and evaluating how the diet modifies proteins within the disc.
Lead author Dr James Iatridis, a professor and vice chair for research in the orthopedics department at the Icahn School of Medicine, said: “Back pain caused by spinal disc degeneration is the number one cause of global disability, so it’s a hugely important problem that needs to be addressed.”
Deepak Vashishth, a professor of biomedical engineering and the Rensselaer lead on the project, added: “We’re trying to establish the mechanism whereby this diet, and type 2 diabetes, leads to disc degeneratio, and that’s not an easy thing to do because, within the body, various processes are linked and feedback loops are difficult to unravel.
“To investigate this questio, you need the mix of experts from different disciplines with different skill sets that the partnership allows.”
Previous research has suggested that a diet which is high in processed foods can affect the function of proteins or lipids which become coated in sugars.
It is thought this process, which is called advanced glycation endproducts (AGE), can lead to disc degeneratio, as well as diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s.

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