Take a Closer Look at the Role of Ceramides in Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease marked by high blood sugar. This creates difficulties for the body to properly regulate blood sugar levels, creating other health problems along with it. The damage that diabetes causes can take years or even decades to develop and thus many people are not aware that they have the disease until complications manifest themselves in some way.

Diabetes has become one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States, with an estimated 8% of adults having some form of diabetes. Diabetes also represents one of the top ten leading causes of death in the U.S., costing around $176 billion dollars each year according to CDC. To compound these issues, scientists are still baffled as to what causes cells to ignore insulin's signals and why this process does not correct itself over time. Recent studies have found a compound in our body that is linked to diabetes: ceramide.

Ceramide and Diabetes

Scientists have known about ceramide's involvement with diabetes for over a decade now, yet we still do not know exactly how much ceramide is needed in order for cells to stop responding to insulin and what causes these levels to rise. This has made it challenging for scientists to develop treatments aimed at restoring insulin response in those that are diabetic, especially since they still do not fully understand how glucagon or inflammation can cause increased levels of ceramide. One thing is certain, though, according to an article on DiaBettr.com - ceramide affects insulin signaling and transmission. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas and absorbs blood glucose into the cells. A disruption in its production, signaling, or transmission would most likely cause insulin resistance and hence, diabetes.     

Ceramide and Obesity

As mentioned earlier, obesity also leads to problems with blood sugar regulation. The increase in body fat that comes with obesity can increase the risk of getting diabetes since fat cells release chemical factors that stress the body's metabolism. This means that obese people are more likely to have high levels of ceramide than those who are not obese. Scientists still do not know how these factors cause an increase in ceramide levels though. The number of fat cells that a person has is also linked to levels of ceramide. Just like obesity that comes with insulin resistance, having too many fat cells can also lead to increased production of chemical factors (ceramides) which inhibit the effects of insulin. Those who carry extra weight around their abdomen seem to be at the greatest risk for developing blood sugar problems and thus, may want to pay attention to what they eat.


In general, high glycemic index foods have been linked with increased risk for diabetes and obesity. Refined flours and sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, causing blood sugar levels to increase rapidly. This means that the pancreas has to work extra hard to produce insulin in large amounts so it can keep up with demand. Scientists believe this might also contribute to a buildup of ceramide because insulin activates a protein kinase enzyme that breaks down glucose into energy that cells need. Ceramide causes this enzyme to stop working which reduces the cell's ability to process sugar into energy.

Foods That Mitigate Diabetes Risk

In general, whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes should be the basis of any healthy diet. These foods are much lower in glycemic index and make it easier for cells to process sugar into energy. In addition, scientists have discovered that a certain type of fiber known as soluble fiber can increase insulin production when glucose is present. Foods high in soluble fiber include oats, barley, beans, and lentils which can further help regulate blood sugar levels.

The identification of link between ceramides and diabetes represents recent progress in understanding the development of insulin resistance. Ceramide is known to contribute to insulin resistance by inhibiting the cell's ability to process sugar into energy. However, there is still a long way to go and further research is warranted.

You should consult a licensed health care professional before starting any supplement, dietary, or exercise program, especially if you are pregnant or have any pre-existing injuries or medical conditions.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.