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Diabetes in cats resembles type 2 diabetes in people. The causes aren’t fully understood, but both genetic and environmental factors are believed to contribute. However, for those quick to point the wagging finger at “sugar” causing obesity and diabetes, cats don’t eat sugar. They don’t have a sweet tooth. A small Swedish case-control study using a web‐based questionnaire sent to owners of cats with diabetes and cats without diabetes (the control) found indoor confinement, being a greedy eater, and being overweight were associated with an increased risk of diabetes. As dry food is commonly fed to cats worldwide, “the association found between dry food and an increased risk of diabetes in cats assessed as normal weight by owners warrants further attention” say the authors.

Fat cat

In Perspectives this month, Alan Barclay looks at the pancreas, what it is and what it does, and why understanding the causes of diabetes are complicated in people let alone in cats.

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A high fibre diet rich in good carbs (fruit, veg, beans and grains) can help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood glucose levels – and it seems to do this by changing the bacteria in the gut. The findings of a recent study showed a diversified high-fibre diet can promote some 15 strains of gut bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids that can help in reducing inflammation in the gut, help regulate hunger and also provide energy to gut cells. “It’s early days,” says study leader Prof Liping Zhao from Rutgers University, “but it lays the foundation and opens the possibility that fibres targeting this group of gut bacteria could eventually become a major part of your diet and your treatment”. The research reinforces the fact that eating certain kinds of carbohydrate foods rich in dietary fibres can help restore the gut microbiota responsible for better digestion and overall health.


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Maybe it’s not on the tip of every tongue writes Ted Kyle in ConscienHealth. But serotonin is a bit more familiar than most neurotransmitters. Most people think of it as a happy hormone for the central nervous system that becomes depleted in a state of depression. However, the gastrointestinal system has far more of it than the central nervous system. And new research now tells us that in the small intestine, this substance might influence obesity and metabolic health.

Scientists have long known that serotonin in the brain plays a role in eating behaviour. Food intake is higher when levels of this hormone are lower in the brain. But animal studies have suggested a very different relationship between serotonin and obesity in the gut. There, it seems to promote obesity and higher blood glucose levels. Now, we have confirmation in humans that this is true. Richard Young and colleagues showed that the small intestines of people with obesity produce more serotonin. In fact, the levels were twice as high when compared to normal controls. The gut secretes this hormone in response to glucose and it appears to play a role in developing obesity and diabetes.

This research is important for two related reasons says Kyle. First, it gives us more insight into how both obesity and diabetes develop, and why some people are more susceptible than others. In their research, Young et al found more cells that produce serotonin in the small intestines of people with obesity than in those at a normal weight. With a better understanding of this pathway, we might have a promising new target for treating obesity and diabetes. Says Young: “This has revealed new ways that we may be able to control the release of serotonin from within the gut, and in turn, further improve the outlook for people living with obesity.”

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