March 15, 2023

Ceramides are fats or lipids found in skin cells and make up approximately 35% of your outer skin layer. They are widely known for retaining skin moisture and preventing germs from entering the body. But now they could also be used as early clinical detectors of the onset of metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.


Researchers at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center used rhesus monkeys during a two-year ceramides study. Rhesus monkeys are similar in metabolic function to humans and, like people, can get obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood sugar and high blood pressure. The researchers fed 16 genetically diverse, healthy yet overweight adult monkeys the same diet and kept them in a controlled environment. Half developed metabolic syndrome and showed significant composition differences of circulating ceramides when compared to monkeys who did not develop the syndrome.


“Seeing these differences earlier on, when animals were clinically indistinguishable from one another, provides new insight on metabolic impairment and how we might distinguish among individuals to identify those at elevated risk for disease,” Anderson said.


As metabolic syndrome becomes increasingly more common among humans, currently affecting about a third of U.S. adults, the necessity of early preventive strategies is critical.

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