The skeleton has a key role in regulating blood glucose and may be the underlying cause of diabetes in some people, claim US researchers.
A study in mice found that the breakdown of old bone to make way for new bone growth also helps to keep a healthy level of glucose in the blood. The study showed that a hormone called osteocalcin seems to be the link.
The researchers say the findings may lead to better drugs to help control Type 2 diabetes. Previous research claimed that osteocalcin, which is released by bone, can regulate glucose levels. The theory is that it switches on the production of insulin in the pancreas which in turn improves the ability of other cells to take in glucose from the blood.
But the latest study found that osteocalcin only works when bone is being broken down during its natural turnover. Further tests on osteocalcin and glucose levels in a small group of patients with a genetic defect in their bone turnover supported the initial findings in mice.
The results suggest that for some people, diabetes may be triggered by changes in the skeleton.
"The research is interesting and this area of investigation could open up the possibility of more targets for drugs to treat or prevent type 2 diabetes," said Dr Victoria King, Head of Research at Diabetes UK.
"What we do know at this stage is that lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and being more physically active can help to reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and can also help people diagnosed with the condition to manage it more effectively."