Study on Everest shows how people get diabetes

Mount Everest isn't the typical place for a science experiment, but the results of research carried out there by a group of climbers may provide more insight into the role low oxygen levels play in the development of type 2 diabetes.

The findings were published in PLOS One and conducted by the University of Southampton and University College London in the U.K. In 2007, 24 participants went to Mount Everest Base Camp at 5,300 meters high for monitoring of blood glucose, body weight, and inflammation biomarkers. Half of the participants stayed at Base Camp and the other half continued up to the summit at 8,848 meters. During weeks six and eight, measurements were taken again of each group.

The study provided researchers with a better understanding of the molecular process behind type 2 diabetes. For example, insulin resistance develops when cells fail to respond to insulin in the body. The scientists found that more insulin resistance markers were present after an extended period of being at high altitude. There was also an increase in inflammation and oxidative stress blood markers.

According to the researchers, this lack of oxygen is similar to what obese people experience at sea level because small blood vessels can’t supply sufficient oxygen to fat tissue.

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