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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora