Researchers at Lund University, Sweden, are studying whether it is possible to prevent obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease by reducing levels of the hormone vasopressin in the blood.
“If you dilute the blood by drinking water, the body releases less of the hormone vasopressin, which can potentially lead to diabetes”, says Sofia Enhörning, a doctor who has recently completed her PhD at Lund University.
For her thesis, Sofia Enhörning studied the link between vasopressin and diabetes. Vasopressin is a hormone released by the pituitary gland in the brain that regulates the body’s salt and fluid balance. It has previously been difficult to study vasopressin because there are a lack of reliable methods to measure it and because the protein quickly disappears from the blood.
However, a new method to estimate the release of vasopressin into the blood has opened up new possibilities. The method instead measures a protein called copeptin that is formed at the same time as vasopressin. In the study, researchers have used samples taken 16 years ago and shown that the levels of copeptin in the old samples can predict diabetes later in life. High copeptin levels were associated with a two to three times higher risk of diabetes than low copeptin levels.
Sofia Enhörning’s research shows that vasopressin, measured as copeptin, is not only linked to diabetes, but also to other conditions such as high blood pressure and obesity. Obesity and diabetes are a growing problem globally and raise the risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease.
There are already drugs available that block the effects of vasopressin; they are used to treat salt and fluid imbalance and heart failure.
In an ongoing study, the research subjects drink three extra litres of water a day to study whether reduced vasopressin levels lead to improved sugar release.
“We will now study whether it is possible to prevent obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of vasopressin in the blood at an early stage”, says Sofia Enhörning.
Link to thesis: The vasopressin system in diabetes mellitus, obesity and the metabolic syndrome
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