News / Health

Mount Everest Climb Exposes Diabetes Mechanism - Study

FILE - A team of mountaineers is seen climbing Mount Everest.
FILE - A team of mountaineers is seen climbing Mount Everest.
Jessica Berman
Using the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest, as an outdoor laboratory, a group of British researchers has identified a mechanism involved in the development of adult onset diabetes.  Experts say the findings could lead to development of treatments to prevent the disease.

At more than 8,800 meters above sea level, Mount Everest in Nepal is the world’s highest peak.  Climbers require supplemental oxygen because the air is so thin. 
Hypoxia, or lack of blood oxygen, is a risk factor for the onset of Type 2 diabetes. 

So, researchers with the Mount Everest project sought to identify the mechanisms by which low oxygen levels contribute to disease in patients who are critically ill with diabetes.

Mike Grocott, a professor of anesthesia and critical care medicine at Southampton University, led the study, which began at an Everest base camp 5,300 meters above sea level.

The expedition included about 200 climbers.  But Grocott says researchers focused on 24 individuals who underwent assessments of glucose control, body weight changes and inflammation biomarkers.  The measurements were taken at six weeks and again at two months.  Eight climbers then continued their trek to the peak.

In the low oxygen environment, Grocott says the participants' insulin levels began to rise, indicating their bodies were becoming insulin resistant.

There also was an increase in biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress, or cellular damage, similar to what’s seen in people with Type 2 diabetes.

On the ground, Grocott says the findings suggest treatments might be developed to prevent the disease.

“Helping to control the tendency towards diabetes may be interventions that are focusing on either the development of this oxidative stress or this inflammation,” says Grocott.

In an article published in the journal PLoS ONE, investigators report the abnormal biomarkers, caused by the extreme altitude, were reversed once the participants came off the mountain.

Many people who develop diabetes suffer from sleep apnea, in which their airways become obstructed - sometimes hundreds of times per night. 

“That is likely to predispose them to certainly intermittent hypoxia during sleep.  And that may be something that is contributing toward this tendency to develop Type 2 diabetes,” says Grocott.

Grocott says investigators are now comparing the climbers, most of whom were Caucasian, to the Sherpa to see whether genetic differences protect the indigenous Nepalese population from diabetes.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid