Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition where the insulin a person’s pancreas makes can’t work properly, or their pancreas can’t make enough insulin.
This leads to rising blood sugar levels that can pose serious health risks if untreated, such as heart disease and stroke.
People with diabetes must overhaul aspects of their lifestyle to keep blood sugar levels in check.
It may come as a surprise that exposure to certain temperatures can also pose risks to people with type 2 diabetes.
The best way to tell if you are drinking enough is to check your urine
According to Dr Michael Mosley, If you have type 2 diabetes then you should be extra careful in summer, particularly if you head off on holiday to somewhere hot.
He said: “People with diabetes are at greater risk of dehydration, so do make sure you are drinking lots of fluid, preferably water or something without calories.
“The best way to tell if you are drinking enough is to check your urine. It should be light yellow, almost clear.”
Hot weather can also increase a person’s risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugars) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugars), said Dr Mosley.
According to Dr Sally Norton, people with diabetes may have less control of body temperature regulation from sweating – this can increase the risk of hyperthermia.
“If you take medication then do keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels,” added Dr Mosley.
As Dr Sally Norton of VavistaLife explained, certain conditions attached to diabetes can also increase the risks associated with temperature: “People with longstanding or severe diabetes can have neuropathy – altered sensation in their feet. That means they may not notice the cold as much putting them at greater risk of frostbite in the cold weather. Or, conversely, of sunburn in the heat.”
Temperature can also disrupt medication practices, Dr Norton said: “Those who need insulin injections for diabetes may find that cold or hot weather can affect the rate of absorption of the drug as it depends on the circulation in the superficial tissues which can be increased in hot weather and reduced in the cold.
“Extremes of weather and temperature can also affect insulin and monitoring equipment. The cold causes blood vessels to constrict making it more difficult to get blood sugar readings from standard finger-prick testing.”
Conversely, temperature may lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications. As reported by diabetes.co.uk, the study suggests being exposed to cold temperatures for a long period of time may reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Scientists from the University of Tokyo and Tohoku University believe this link involves the way temperature affects the role of fat cells in the body.
Using mice, the researchers assessed how fat cells reacted to different temperatures. They discovered that long-term exposure to cold temperature caused white fat cells, which store energy, to produce brown-like fat cells, which burn energy.
This is a significant finding because brown fat cells are thought to be healthier than white fat cells, which are usually associated with metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
The researchers explained that the process begins when the cold kick-starts a change in a protein called JMJD1A. When combined with other proteins, this altered protein changes the way a gene functions in producing heat. Subsequently, a chemical process called thermogensis is initiated which changes epigenetic patterns so white fat cells are transformed into beige fat cells, which function like brown fat cells.
“Understanding how the environment influences metabolism is scientifically, pharmacologically, and medically interesting,” said study author Professor Juro Sakai.
“Our next experiments will look more closely at epigenetic modifications within the thermogenesis signalling pathway so that we may manipulate it.”
Prof Sakai and colleagues noted that the same white-to-beige fat cell transition can be caused without exposure to cold temperatures, so devising a treatment that specifically targets amino acids within proteins could improve health outcomes.
Further research in humans will be required to validate these findings before any fat cell treatments can be developed, noted the researchers.
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