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Beta carotene and tocopherol may influence type-2 diabetes onset

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Beta carotene and tocopherol may influence type-2 diabetes onset

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have made some interesting discoveries about type II diabetes. It seems that beta carotene which is a precursor of vitamin A, reduces the risk of diabetes, while another vitamin (gamma tocopherol, ie vitamin E) may increase the risk of diabetes.
Investigators arrived at these conclusions after analyzing the relationship between gene variants underlying genetic predisposition to diabetes and high levels of certain substances in the blood that are found in patients with diabetes. It seems that patients with increased genetic risk of diabetes mellitus have low levels of beta carotene in the blood while gamma tocopherol level is high.

Beta carotene


Diabetes is one of the most common metabolic diseases, and the incidence is increasing. Major types are type I diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, which called so because it is usually diagnosed in young adults and is insulin dependent, and type II diabetes, which is usually diagnosed in older people. Atul Butte, MD, PhD, associate professor of systems medicine in pediatrics, points out that type II diabetes affects 15% of the world population and that its incidence is increasing. Although type II diabetes is mainly due to lifestyle, in this type of diabetes, the role of genes is quite important. It seems that diabetes is a combination of environmental factors with genetic factors.

The findings made by scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine have led them to investigate whether beta-carotene and gamma-tocopherol are protective and respectively harmful factors of diabetes. In addition, researchers found that the two markers interact with the same gene variant that influences diabetes risk ( SLC30A4), which indicates that it plays an important role in the pathogenesis of diabetes.

Previous studies based on “genome-wide association studies” or GWAS, have shown that approximately 60% of Americans wear in the genome two copies of that gene variant that appears to increase the risk of developing diabetes. Several years ago the team of researchers led by Butte made similar studies based on EWAS, or environment-wide association study. These studies aimed at identifying exogenous substances that are associated with the disease. It was found that 5 substances may be associated with diabetes including beta carotene, that is vitamin A, and gamma-tocopherol, which is vitamin E.

“We can’t say, based on just this study, that ‘vitamin E is bad for you,'” said first author, Chirag Patel, PhD. Therefore, researchers want to investigate in laboratory animals whether the two substances (carotene and tocopherol) have a role in preventing or accelerating diabetes onset.