Researchers find cellular abnormalities cause some people's bodies to store more fat, putting them at risk for type 2 diabetes

Dysfunctions in the fat cells of some individuals may predispose them to obesity, type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders, according to a new study from a team of Swedish researchers. They said they hope their findings could lead to the development of new therapies that target these irregularities.

For the study, the Karolinska Institute researchers analyzed the fat cells of individuals ranging in size from slim to morbidly obese. The results, which were published in the journal Nature, showed that individuals who were more overweight were more likely to have alterations in their fat cells that caused them to store more calories, but made them less likely to burn this energy.

The team noted that the adipose tissue stored in the fat cells of healthy-weight individuals is purged and renewed an average of six times during the 10-year life expectancy of fat cells. However, the renewal time for the fat cells of individuals who are obese is much longer, indicating a reluctance on the part of these cells to burn energy.

The researchers said these findings may seem intuitive, but this mechanism had not previously been identified. Now that this pathway is known, scientists in the future may be able to more precisely direct their research. Knowing exactly why some people become obese while others remain slim could lead the way to development of medications that enable individuals to maintain a healthier body mass.

Anything that could enable more people to avoid obesity could play a major role in the nation's fight against type 2 diabetes. Excess fat is the leading cause of the metabolic condition, and once people become overweight, it is very difficult for them to shed the extra pounds. Pharmaceutical options may be needed for many people.