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Eating junk food can damage kidneys as much as diabetes, study finds

Both type 2 diabetes and a high-fat diet can lead to elevated blood sugar levels – and have troubling knock-on effects for people's health

Andrew Griffin
Monday 09 May 2016 17:51 BST
The mice's junk food diet consisted of consisting of cheese, chocolate bars and marshmallows
The mice's junk food diet consisted of consisting of cheese, chocolate bars and marshmallows (Getty)

Eating a junk food diet can be as damaging to the kidney as diabetes, according to a new study.

The problems caused by eating junk food or a diet high in fat are similar to those found in type 2 diabetes, the new research shows.

The study took rats and fed them a diet of either junk food – consisting of cheese, chocolate bars and marshmallows - for eight weeks or a special food that was high in fat for five weeks.

The researchers then looked at the changes those diets made to the animals’ blood sugar levels and the glucose transports that are in the kidneys. Those transporters have a central role in diabetes and problems with them can lead to significant problems for internal organs.

The study found that the rats with type 2 diabetes had more of certain kinds of glucose transporters and regulatory proteins. But the diet caused similar changes in those same receptors – meaning that it could lead to the same problems as experienced by people with diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body has a problem producing enough insulin or doesn’t react to it properly. When that happens, levels of blood sugar increase, which has knock on effects for organs including the kidneys.

But since those same problems can be found with junk food and high fat diets, similar problems might be seen in the future, the researchers said.

Obesity is biggest threat

"The Western diet contains more and more processed junk food and fat, and there is a well-established link between excessive consumption of this type of food and recent increases in the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes,” said Dr Havovi Chichger, a senior lecturer in biomedical science at Anglia Ruskin University. “In our study, type 1 and type 2 diabetes both induce changes in glucose transport in the kidney, but junk food or a diet high in fat causes changes that are very similar to those found in type 2 diabetes.

The study and those like it may help treat the effects of such problems with high bloody sugar, the researchers said.

"A new treatment for diabetic patients constitutes blocking the glucose transporter in the kidney to reduce blood glucose levels,” Dr Chichger, who was the lead author on the study, said. “Understanding how diet can affect sugar handling in the kidneys and whether the inhibitors can reverse these changes could help to protect the kidneys from further damage."

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