It has been long known that diabetes is caused by a variety of factors such as genetic influences, insulin resistance, and physical inactivity, but now a team of Bangladeshi scientists has come up with a new cause of the disease.
The team of researchers from multiple local and foreign universities, through a five-year (2015-2020) study on 574 non-diabetic people aged between 30 and 60, have discovered that deficiency of the Intestinal Alkaline Phosphatase (IAP) enzyme is a leading cause for developing diabetes.
Professor Madhu S Malo, former assistant professor at Harvard University and an adviser to the Bangladesh Diabetic Association, led the study, funded by the Bangladesh Medical and Research Council and the Ministry of Education.
In 2015, Professor Malo published an article suggesting a high level of IAP is protective against type-2 diabetes irrespective of obesity. Now his team offers evidence to support the claim.
While revealing the results of their study at a press conference on Wednesday, Prof Malo said people with IAP deficiency have a 13.8 times higher risk of developing diabetes.
He said the fasting sugar levels of people with low levels of the enzyme almost doubled during the research period.
Even obese people do not get diabetes if the level of the IAP is high in them, he claimed.
The IAP level of a person can be detected within three-four minutes through a stool test, he continued.
Those who are at risk due to the IAP enzyme deficiency can prevent getting diabetes by taking precautionary measures, he said.
The researcher sought cooperation from policymakers and the government for using the kit, which he has developed for doing the relevant test, at the field level.
The researchers think that providing the IAP enzyme to those with deficiency can help prevent diabetes.
Tests on mice have shown that consuming yellow and red capsicum increases IPA enzymes. However, it has not been clinically tested on humans yet, Prof Malo noted.
"We think this is a breakthrough which can greatly contribute to diabetes prevention," said Prof AK Azad, president of the Bangladesh Diabetic Association, at the press conference.
The study was recently published in the journal "The BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care", a joint venture of the British Medical Journal and the American Diabetes Association.
Researchers from Birdem, the Bangladesh Diabetic Association, Rajshahi University, Jahangirnagar University, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, and Harvard University were involved in the study.
Currently, there are 46 crore people with diabetes worldwide, while the number of diabetic patients in Bangladesh is more than 86 lakh.