Washington, Sept 22 (ANI): Pancreatic fat levels may help predict diabetes, say scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center who are the first in the U.S. to use an imaging technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to measure the amount of pancreatic fat in humans.
Researchers have long believed that overweight people tend to have large fat deposits in their pancreases, but they've been unable to confirm or calculate how much fat resides there, until now.
Though scientists world over use MRS to investigate a number of diseases including breast cancer and epilepsy, the UT Southwestern group has successfully used the non-invasive method to measure pancreatic fat.
The study's findings will be published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolisms.
It suggests that measuring pancreatic fat content in people could one day serve as an effective clinical tool to identify those at high risk of diabetes and monitor interventions designed to prevent the disease.
"These are very early results, but if they hold true, pancreatic MRS would be a fast and noninvasive test to screen people at risk for diabetes either because they're obese or they have a family history of type 2 diabetes, or metabolic syndrome," said Dr. Ildiko Lingvay, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study.
"It could potentially tell physicians which patients are most likely to develop diabetes in the near future and thus are in need of more aggressive interventions," the expert added.
For this study, researchers used MRS to measure the amount of pancreatic fat in 79 adult volunteers. The research team obtained duplicate measurements one to two weeks apart from 33 study participants to make sure the results could be replicated over time.
The volunteers were divided into four groups according to their body mass index (BMI) and glucose tolerance. BMI is a weight-to-height ratio commonly used in to gauge obesity. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 25; someone with a BMI of 40 or more is considered morbidly obese. All participants underwent numerous physical measurements including height, weight and blood pressure in addition to extensive clinical evaluations.
Using MRS, the researchers found that the overweight and obese volunteers had significantly more pancreatic fat than did those in the lean group. The volunteers who had similar BMIs but had already developed either pre-diabetes or diabetes had even more pancreatic fat. (ANI)