Eating high amounts of junk food can cause changes in the kidneys in a way similar to that seen in type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

Rising cases of obesity worldwide, and the highly processed diets found mostly in the Western world, are taking a toll on the health of the population. Even if people don’t develop type 2 diabetes, the study found that a diet high in junk food can still pose risks for the health of the organs of the body.

High concentrations of sugar in the blood, as seen with diabetes, can lead to kidney disease and damage throughout the body. Finding a way to block glucose reabsorption in the kidneys could help to prevent this damage and lower blood glucose levels overall.

The investigation, led by Dr Havovi Chichger, Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science at Anglia Ruskin University, aimed to investigate the adaptations that occur in the glucose transporters of the kidneys in response to different diets, and how they affect blood glucose levels and the number of glucose transporters in the kidneys, which facilitate glucose reabsorption.

Different groups of rats were fed either a high calorie diet, or a diet that consisted of junk food, for five and eight weeks respectively, and were compared to rats with type 2 diabetes. The researchers measured for the numbers of glucose transporters (GLUT and SGLT) and their regulatory proteins.

They found that these transporters were high in number in rats with type 2 diabetes, and that a similar increase was seen in those with the unhealthy diets.

Chichger said: “The Western diet contains more and more processed junk food and fat, and there is a well-established link between excessive consumption of this type of food and recent increases in the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“In our study, type 1 and type 2 diabetes both induce changes in glucose transport in the kidney, but junk food or a diet high in fat causes changes that are very similar to those found in type 2 diabetes.”