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NEWS RELEASE · 6th December 2012
Canadian Diabetes Association
Insulin, diet, obesity and type 2 diabetes: uncovering new links
Research funded by the Canadian Diabetes Association published this week

New research recently published online in Cell Metabolism suggests that chronically high levels of insulin may be an important underlying cause of obesity. Previously, experts thought that insulin levels became elevated in response to obesity and the insulin resistance that accompanies it. These new findings offer hope that treatments to keep insulin in a healthy range may reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. The study was completed by Dr. James Johnson at the University of British Columbia and was funded in part by the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Previous notions have concluded that high insulin levels are a result of obesity; however this study based on animal research now suggests otherwise.

People who follow a high-fat diet and meal plan by consuming small amounts of food and snacks throughout the day may experience weight gain because their bodies produce higher levels of insulin, which can lead to obesity—a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.

Further research needs to be completed to determine how these findings can be applied medically; however the findings suggest that different dietary patterns may contribute to healthy insulin levels. This can be accomplished by eating meals at regular times throughout the day, having smaller portion sizes and consuming fewer snacks.

“The Canadian Diabetes Association is proud to be a leading supporter of diabetes research in Canada, investing more than $7 million in the last year. The Association has funded more than $110 million since our establishment, and then turns this research into practical applications, programs and management strategies for every day use. Dr. Johnson’s study is an example of the innovative approaches necessary to understand the complexities of diabetes and identify opportunities for new treatments,” says Dr. Janet Hux, Chief Scientific Advisor for the Canadian Diabetes Association.

“For many years, the Association has been encouraging Canadians to pursue healthy lifestyles in order to prevent and manage diabetes. Dr. Johnson’s work provides important new insights on the role of the body’s own insulin levels in maintaining a healthy weight and preventing type 2 diabetes.”

Canada has a growing and aging population and more than 60 per cent of Canadians are either overweight or obese. These factors, combined with an increase in sedentary lifestyles, will continue to drive growing diabetes prevalence, with many people being diagnosed with diabetes at younger ages. It is estimated however that more than 50 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented or delayed with healthier eating and increased physical activity.

“Diabetes is an epidemic in our country,” notes Dr. Hux. “However, Canada has historically played an important role in the fight against diabetes and research like that of Dr. Johnson continues to keep us at the forefront of the field.
“Working together with our Canadian researchers, we will continue to set the standard for innovative and leading-edge diabetes research while making a difference in the lives of the more than nine million Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes.”

For more information about research funded by the Canadian Diabetes Association, visit