UCL News


Junk food causes similar high blood sugar levels as type 2 diabetes

20 May 2016

A junk food diet can cause as much damage to the kidney as diabetes, according to a new study published in the journal Experimental Physiology.


In type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn't produce enough insulin or doesn't react to it. This causes an accumulation of sugar (glucose) in the blood, which can have severe long-term consequences for organs, including the kidneys, where it can lead to diabetic kidney disease. Hence, finding a way to block glucose reabsorption in the kidneys could offer a potential treatment for lowering blood sugar levels.

Researchers used animal models of diabetes and models of diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance to see how insulin resistance and too much sugar or fat affect glucose transporters in the kidney.

Rats were fed junk food consisting of cheese, chocolate bars, biscuits and marshmallows for 8 weeks, or a rodent chow high in fat (containing 60%) for 5 weeks.

The researchers then tested the effect of these diets on blood sugar levels and the different glucose transporters in the kidneys.  The effect of the diets on these transporters was compared with the changes seen in rat models of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

They found that certain types of glucose transporters (GLUT and SGLT) as well as their regulatory proteins were present in a higher number in type 2 diabetic rats.  And a high fat diet and a junk food diet caused a similar increase in these receptors.

The new study was carried out in Division of Biosciences and Nephrology, UCL by Dr Havovi Chichger (now of Anglia Ruskin University) whilst a PhD student  at UCL and funded by Diabetes UK  and Dr  Joanne  Marks  in  the labs of Dr Edward Debnam, Professors Robert Unwin and Kaila Srai.