WEDNESDAY, Sept. 12, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Hispanics are more likely to store fat in their pancreas, but less likely to be able to produce more insulin to compensate for this excess fat, putting them at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.
Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate metabolism. People with insulin resistance still produce insulin but their bodies don't use it correctly. It can be a forerunner for type 2 diabetes.
"Not all people who are overweight or obese and who have insulin resistance go on to develop diabetes," Richard Bergman, director of the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute in Los Angeles, and study lead author, said in a Cedars-Sinai news release. "If we can determine who is most likely to develop diabetes and why, then we can make strides toward preventing it in those individuals."
In conducting the study, the researchers used a noninvasive medical imaging technique, known as magnetic resonance spectroscopy, to measure the amount of fat in the organs of white, black and Hispanic participants. All of the people involved in the study were equally overweight and shared many of the symptoms of prediabetes.
Participants also took an oral glucose tolerance test and intravenous glucose tolerance test to determine their insulin resistance.
"One of the reasons some people are at increased risk, we believe, is that fatty pancreas is unable to secrete enough insulin, which results in an individual progressing from impaired glucose tolerance to type 2 diabetes," Lidia Szczepaniak, director of magnetic resonance spectroscopy at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and Biomedical Imaging Research Institute, said in the release. "In our study, we found Latinos were especially vulnerable, as they tended to store more fat in the pancreas and their compensatory insulin secretion was entirely suppressed."
Diabetes affects nearly 26 million Americans and another 79 million are prediabetic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of heart disease and stroke.
The study was published online Sept. 11 in Diabetes Care.
While the study found an association between ethnicity and insulin resistance, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine to learn more about type 2 diabetes.