Many news reports recently have discussed the link between obesity and diabetes.  The root of the connection between obesity and diabetes is insulin resistance.   Insulin helps the body turn food into energy and is the body’s primary fat regulator. In the presence of high levels of insulin, more calories are converted to triglycerides to be stored as body fat.   As a person gains more and more weight, the insulin they produce becomes less and less effective.  This form of diabetes, where the body produces insulin but can’t use it, is called Type 2 Diabetes.

News reports about Type 2 Diabetes and obesity often lose sight of the fact that increased risk is not a guarantee of contracting the condition. That is, that not every obese person will develop diabetes nor is every person with diabetes obese.  It’s now apparent that part of the reason for this is that some people are protected by a hormone called adiponectin.

Adiponectin is a substance produced by, ironically enough, fat cells but it is unlike almost all other such molecules that fat cells produce.  Those other molecules are produced more as weight increases and interfere with the action of insulin.  Adiponectin production not only generally goes down as weight increases but it also apparently helps insulin.  According to an study of body fat distribution and cardiovascular risk published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 2008, as adiponectin levels go down, obesity, insulin resistance, and atherosclerosis are more likely.  People treated with adiponectin show reduced insulin resistance and atherosclerosis.  Furthermore, information from a new study and meta analysis in JAMA, The journal of the American Medical Association shows that the higher the level of adiponectin in the blood, the lower the risk of diabetes.  It may be possible to reduce diabetes risk by raising levels of this substance.

So increasing adiponectin levels can help all people reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and its complications.  For women, this is even more important for two reasons.  Women have a higher risk of developing diabetes than men and adiponectin can also reduce the risk of breast cancer.  So far, the only way to reliably raise adiponectin levels is through hormone therapy.