New Link to Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Breast Cancer and Obesity in Women
October 14, 2012 by Robert Wascher
Filed under A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, Abdominal Obesity, Appetite, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Cancer Prevention, Glucose, Healthy Diet, Hypertension, LDL, Lipids, Metabolic Syndrome, Neurotensin, Nutrition, Overweight, Proneurotensin, Risk of Death, Weekly Health Update, breast cancer prevention, breast cancer risk, cancer risk, cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, diabetes, diet, fat, health, heart attack, heart disease, high blood pressure, hyperglycemia, lifestyle, mortality, obesity, risk, survival
A new study finds that high levels of the hormone neurotensin increase a woman’s risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and possibly obesity as well.
NEW LINK TO DIABETES, CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE, BREAST CANCER AND OBESITY IN WOMEN
As I discuss in my book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, both obesity and diabetes are associated with an increased risk of cancer. Obesity, in particular, is a potent risk factor for breast cancer, and for recurrence of previously diagnosed breast cancer. As I have noted recently, diabetes is also a known risk factor for breast cancer (Diabetes Significantly Increases Breast Cancer Risk). Additionally, obesity is the single greatest risk factor for diabetes.
In view of the known associations between obesity, diabetes cardiovascular disease and cancer risk, a newly published prospective clinical research study from Sweden provides tantalizing evidence of at least one possible explanation for these associations. In this study, 4,632 participants in the Malmö Diet and Cancer Study were followed between 1991 and 2009. Upon entry into this prospective public health study, all participants underwent blood testing for proneurotensin, a precursor of the hormone neurotensin. Neurotensin is most commonly found in the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, and its secretion is stimulated by food intake, and particularly by fat intake. Neurotensin has many known physiological effects, including a reduction in appetite and food intake after meals. Interestingly, neurotensin levels normally rise after consumption of a fatty meal, which is thought to result in a decreased appetite for more food, and reduced food intake. However, in obese patients, neurotensin levels appear to actually decrease after consumption of a fatty meal, which suggests that an abnormal neurotensin response to food intake may play an important role in obesity. Moreover, following obesity surgery, neurotensin levels have been observed to rise, in a normal fashion, following fatty meals. Additionally, neurotensin has been observed to stimulate the growth of breast cancer tumors, while blocking neurotensin appears to reduce breast cancer tumor growth. Finally, certain inherited variations of one of the receptors for neurotensin is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, primarily by increasing levels of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” form of cholesterol).
The findings of this study were very intriguing. Among patients with elevated levels of proneurotensin, diabetes was 28 percent more common, cardiovascular disease was 17 percent more common, and death due to cardiovascular disease was 29 percent more common. Interestingly, the adverse health impact of high proneurotensin levels was significant only in women. Among women only, high levels of proneurotensin were associated with a 41 percent increase in the risk of diabetes, a 33 percent increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease, a 50 percent increase in the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease, a 44 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer, and a 13 percent overall increase in the risk of death due to any cause.
This study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
While this study cannot explain the actual mechanism(s) whereby increased levels of proneurotensin and neurotensin may lead to an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and breast cancer in women, it nonetheless suggests that these hormones, when elevated, should be considered as markers for an increased risk of these serious illnesses, at least in women. Moreover, based upon our knowledge of the physiological effects of neurotensin on digestion and appetite control, and its abnormal secretion in obese women, it is possible that stimulating an increase in neurotensin levels may help to restore more normal appetite levels, decrease caloric intake, and improve weight loss in obese patients.
More research needs to be done in order to understand how proneurotensin and neurotensin play a role in the development of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. In doing so, we may be able to open up exciting new opportunities to reduce the incidence and impact of these common causes of premature death, particularly among women.
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Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity
Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author
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