High levels of certain protein may throw off metabolic processes and increase risk of type 2 diabetes

An overabundance of the thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP) in the brain could throw off a metabolic regulatory mechanism and increase an individual's risk of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study from Yeshiva University researchers.

Nerve cells in a region of the brain known as the hypothalamus detect nutrients and hormones that circulate in the bloodstream. If these levels are too high or too low, this area initiates feelings of either satiety or hunger, which then force a person to either stop eating or seek sustenance.

However, this regulatory process, in addition to a number of other important metabolic functions, can be affected by TXNIP. In studies of laboratory mice, the researchers found that an overabundance of nutrients caused by overeating resulted in high levels of TXNIP in the hypothalamus.

This, in turn, caused the animals to become more sedate and lowered the rate at which their bodies burned fat. It also reduced glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, which are two of the early warning signs of type 2 diabetes.

The researchers said that their findings, which were reported in the Journal of Neuroscience, could have major implications for the treatment of overweight individuals who are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Medications designed to suppress TXNIP could lead to improved metabolic function and limit individuals' chances of developing the disease.

Given the fact that obesity and type 2 diabetes have become so common in the U.S., the researchers said that anything that limits the risk of these conditions could be a major boon to public health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that one-third of all U.S. adults will have diabetes by 2030.