Sunday, August 28, 2011

*High prevalence of Diabetes in Ghana: Effect of High Fat Diet*

Diabetes mellitus represents one of the non-infectious diseases with high prevalence in Ghana, it affects people who are mostly between 35-60 years. It is a metabolic disease that affects glucose homeostasis; which simply means the control of the level of glucose in the blood during the hours when we are well fed and starving is defective. Normally, the body acts through the hormone insulin to store excess glucose when we are well fed and then cause a slow releasing when starving. This balance is tightly control to ensure that glucose levels in the blood is maintained.

*Untimely production and insufficient levels of insulin*

Diabetes mellitus occurs in two forms, type-one (mostly congenital) is when the production of insulin is disrupted and type-two (insulin resistance) when the insulin is produced all right but it fails to achieve the desire effect. Type-two diabetes also occurs because of untimed production and insufficient levels of insulin, which is now partly known to be due to the negative effect of high fat diet. The recent discovery of the impact of high fat diet on the reduced production of insulin goes a long way to identify some of the specific processes that cause the type-two diabetes mellitus. The link between high fat diet, obesity and diabetes has long been known but not the exact factors responsible.

*Reactive Glucose*

The reason that makes high level of glucose dangerous to the body is that glucose is very reactive compared to sugar compounds like fructose. When glucose stays in the blood at a high level for too long it can becomes cross-linked to many other molecules especially proteins. This process is responsible for many of the symptoms in the sufferer’s body. The cure for the complex disease of diabetes is the most sought after due to the high prevalence the world over and especially in Ghana.

*Effect of high fat diet on the insulin producing cells in the Pancreas*

The new discovery by Ohtsubo and colleagues at the University of California – Santa Barbara and published in the journal Nature Medicine, describes for the first that high fat diet leads to disruption of certain processes in the beta cells of the pancreas. This disruption results in the reduction of the capacity of the pancreatic beta cells to sense glucose levels accurately and to produce the correct levels of insulin in a timely manner. This effect is also seen when the levels of free fatty acids are elevated by other processes apart from diet, this strongly suggest that type-two diabetes occurring later in life is due in part to elevated fat levels in the blood.

*High fat diet blocks the breakdown of fat in the body*

In a related development, a large team of researcher lead by Prof. Eric Verdin of the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco – California, report another groundbreaking discovery which show that high fat diet blocks the process by which fat if broken down to yield energy for the body. This discovery (reported in the Molecular Cell Journal) demonstrates a rather paradoxical relationship between high fat diet and the processes needed to break down fat especially in the liver. The gene affected by high fat diet can be defective individuals who show childhood obesity however; people with the correct version of this gene can develop dysfunctional fat breakdown process due to high fat diet.

*Diabetes and Lifestyle*

The two groundbreaking discoveries demonstrates clearly that high fat diet has a negative feedback on processes the is required for the regulation of blood glucose level. The persistent elevated fat level in the blood disrupts the process by which the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas sense blood level glucose. This sensing process is vital to the control of the released of the correct amounts of insulin timely to regulate blood glucose levels. It appears high fat diet is a two-edged sword that blocks breakdown of fat and also leads to elevated fat levels in the blood which disrupts the glucose sensing function of beta cells of the pancreas. The take home message is the high fat diet is not good especially for people above 30 years, since it is strongly linked to diabetes and coronary diseases.

Patrick Kobina Arthur (PhD),


  1. This is a great piece of work. My biggest concern is that most folks are naive about what causes or exaggerates this condition. They live in the i-dont-careism- behavior. illiteracy also contributes to this same condition. I pray that the public education on Diabetes will become more prevelant in our dear country.

  2. Repost:

    kj - 2011-08-30 11:13:37 - on Ghanawed

    C-14 fatty acid? That is biochemically rare, if any, in landed animals. The enzymes responsible for elongation in fatty acid synthesis stop at C-16; the prosthetic arm can hold up to C-16, and rarely stop at C-14. However, fishes and some other aquatic animals can elongate beyond C-16. Animals like cow must get the C-18s and longer from diet, which are not plenty in their diet.


    Great analysis but, your high fat diet blocking breakdown of stored fat comment should not be classified as a recent important discovery; this is a logical conclusion from the basic fact, that free fatty-acids production; like many other biological processes, flow down their concentration gradient. Most people know, that to lose weight, you reduce your dietary fat intake to induce breakdown of stored fats; in addition to less carbohydrate intake.

    Myristic acid is C-14, 11% of milk fat and Milk is from animals?


    You are completely wrong.

    Stored fat is first immobilised as free fatty acid and most of it is sent to the Liver for beta-oxidation ( breakdown to yield energy)

    Why don't you refer to the paper itself in journal (molecular cell) to educate yourself well, before you start making sweeping statements.

    What is new is that high fat diet leads to the longterm inactivation of an enzyme called SIRT3 in the mitochondrial which in turn leads to reduced beta-oxidation. This has nothing to do with stored fat!

    Its simply that the bodies ability to generate energy from dietary fat is greatly reduced. This result in higher levels of fat in the blood which is further worsen by continuing high fat diet.

    The second story I refered to then explains that high fat levels in the blood disrupts glucose sensing by the beta-cell of the pancreas leading to type 2 diabetes.



  3. Well done!
    Before I give any comment, I want say that Korle Bu Teaching Hospital is a disgrace to Ghana. WHY? I personally think that Korle Bu Teaching Hospital is sick and not serving it intended purpose. How can the so - called the Nation’s No.1 Teaching Hospital and its surroundings be gribbed with dirt? How many of the diseases we have are not
    caused by sanitation and attitudinal problem? Just to say a little.
    Why should almost any of the world problems be associated with African, even diabetes? We Africans say we don’t money and so resort a habitual loan, yet we get enough money to buy fatty foods thinking that we are living well. I think our we should be thought preventive lifestyle of managing this diabetes. Nevertheless, there is good news for Africa; all is not lost yet since we are responsible for our common future

  4. Great analysis! The body is capable converting excess blood sugar to fats hence taking fatty meal only compounds the situation. Most Ghanaians do not exercise regularly and as such are unable to expend most of these excesses. This is one reason why most of these metabolic diseases affect mostly Africans. When we see the Europeans and the other Westerners taking a walk in the morning or working out, we look at them as though they have nothing doing with their time.
    What I think we need to do is to eat well and exercise more frequently to keep us healthy all the time.

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  6. an insightful piece. I think high diabetes in high in Ghana because the mass of the people are interested in this fast food joints available in the country. The fatty acid content of these foods is in high quantity and usually contains the bad cholesterol which mobilizes fatty acids in the blood. Not much exercise in done by the average Ghanaian and I think this contributes to this high level of diabetes. I think it is our responsibility as literates to educate the mass about this development since much of the problem lies with the naïve people

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