How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

British scientists have gained new insight
into Type 2 diabetes by traveling to an unusual location — high atop Mount Everest. According to a study published Monday in the
journal PLOS One, researchers found long-term exposure to hypoxia — or low oxygen levels
in the body — is linked to increased indicators of insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes. Insulin resistance occurs when cells in the
body don’t respond to the hormone responsible for regulating sugar levels. This could lead
to too much sugar in the blood, which could lead to Type 2 diabetes. (Via Medicom Health
Interactive) The data for the study was collected as part
of a trek led by researchers, doctors and nurses who wanted to study how decreased oxygen
levels affect bodily functions at extreme altitudes. (Via The Guardian) The team chose to go to Mount Everest because
the high-altitude conditions simulated the critical conditions of ill patients who often
suffer from hypoxia at normal altitudes. (Via National Geographic) The researchers say hypoxia is a common problem
affecting patients in intensive care units in the United Kingdom and this research could
help improve survival rates. According HealthDay, such levels of hypoxia
observed in healthy people atop the mountain are normally seen in obese people at sea level.
But the researchers say it’s often impossible to study those patients because they are so
ill. A doctor involved with the study told Science
Daily the research “demonstrates the value of using healthy volunteers in studies carried
out at high altitude to patients at sea level. [It] is a fantastic way to test hypotheses
that would otherwise be very difficult to explore.” According to Medical News Today, the researchers
believe the results of the study could lead to the development of treatments for reducing
the progression of diabetes indicators and possibly prevent the disease altogether. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, more than 25 million Americans have diabetes, and about 90 percent
of them have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.