Regularly eating junk food can cause as much damage to the kidneys as type 2 diabetes, a new study reports.
Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, wanted to investigate how insulin resistance and too much sugar or fat affected glucose transporters in the kidneys.
For five and eight weeks, respectively, they fed different groups of rats a high-fat, high-calorie mouse chow diet or a diet that consisted of human junk food such as chocolate bars and biscuits. These rats were then compared to rats with type 2 diabetes.
The study team evaluated changes in the animals’ blood sugar levels and the number of glucose transporters (GLUT and SGLT) in the kidneys. Problems with glucose transports can result in problems for internal organs and have a central role within diabetes.
They found that the rats with type 2 diabetes had increased amounts of certain transporters and regulatory proteins. A similar increase was found among the rats eating the unhealthy diet.
These problems caused by eating a high-calorie diet can pose risks for the health of the organs of the body, but finding a way to block glucose reabsorption in the kidneys could prevent this damage and lower blood glucose levels.
Study author Dr Havovi Chichger, a senior lecturer in biomedical science at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “The Western diet contains more and more processed junk food and fat, and there is a well-established link between excessive consumption of this type of food and recent increases in the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
“In our study, type 1 and type 2 diabetes both induce changes in glucose transport in the kidney, but junk food or a diet high in fat causes changes that are very similar to those found in type 2 diabetes.”
“A new treatment for diabetic patients constitutes blocking the glucose transporter in the kidney to reduce blood glucose levels. Understanding how diet can affect sugar handling in the kidneys and whether the inhibitors can reverse these changes could help to protect the kidneys from further damage.”
The study appears in the online journal UCL Discovery.

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