Ceramides - The Missing Link with Fat and Diabetes

January 14, 2024

Ceramides, the Missing Link Between Fatty Acids and Diabetes

I thought ceramides were all about beauty products sold at expensive spas! We do know that ceramides are the fatty acids that make up some 50-70% of the moisture barrier of your skin, keeping water in and germs out. There are some 12 different kinds of ceramides, all made from sphingosine.

And just what is sphingosine? Well, it is the other major component of membranes other than plasmalogens and often plays a role in the functionality of a membrane. It typically has 1 long carbon change on it. Add a second carbon chain at the nitrogen end and you have a ceramide. So, these two characters are inherently wrapped up in the functionality of cell membranes. Sphingosines have all sorts of antimicrobial activities as shown in the gradual death and dehydration of skin cells leaving a layer of water-proofing and antibacterial activity. That keeps us wrapped in a cocoon of safety with billions of bacterial cells living on our skin but not getting in to wreak havoc inside us.

So far so good. How do ceramides form? Woo hoo! This is enough to make a whole graduate course in biochemistry. But the simplest explanation is that excess saturated fat turns on the production of ceramides. Saturated fats get into your cells faster and before carbs. They turn off glucose uptake. When the cellular threshold of fat storage is exceeded, fats overflow into other cells that normally don't take them up at all. For example, pancreas beta cells that normally just cheerfully make insulin when asked politely.

After exceeding the buffering storage capacity of fat tissue, neutral lipids like sphingosine and ceramide accumulate in non-fat regular tissues such as the liver, heart, pancreas, and skeletal muscle, inducing organ dysfunction called lipotoxicity. This increases the likelihood of the onset of two molecular pathogenesis responsible for the persistent hyperglycemia observed in type 2 diabetes like the progressive decrease in function and the mass of pancreatic β-cells.

It's that accumulation of ceramides and sphingosines inside cells where they have no business being that turns off insulin responsiveness, and that is the slippery slope of type 2 diabetes. It starts with eating too many calories, with too much saturated fat.

High blood ceramides are looking me right in the eyes and telling me, I'm eating too much saturated fat. That's bacon and braunschweiger, hamburger, and steak all acting together to have too many delicious, tasty, tempting calories. Those nasty little ceramides have the tendency to kill the cells they are living in...and if that happens to be the beta cells in your pancreas, you bit by bit run out of insulin.

www.What will Work for me. Saturated fat is the carrier of too many calories. Our animals on feed lots aren't healthy either. They are also just chock full of saturated fat. It tastes just plain delicious. Like Adam's apple.....it's a high price.

References: FASEB, Frontiers Endocrin Lausaune, WebMD, Cell, Wikipedia, Front Endocrine, Trends Endo Metab., Annual Review Physiology, Frontiers Endo,

Pop Quiz


1. What are ceramides?                   Answer: waxy, fatty acids that have a role in cell signaling that become toxic when it reaches a threshold.

2. What causes the problem?                    Answer: We have a limit to how much fat we can store in our fat cells before we start spilling our storage into other cells that normally don't have any storage capacity.

3. Why does that happen?                              Answer: Randle's cycle. Fat gets in first and fastest. Cells can't turn its absorption off. When there is a huge flood that exceeds the capacity to burn or store in regular places, fat sneaks into other tissues. Starting with the liver, it gets into your visceral fat, your pancreas, your heart, and your muscles. You get marbled meat, just like cows.

4. Can I measure the ceramides in my blood?                     Answer: Just recently, yes.

5. How can I lower my ceramide levels?                         Answer: Be a pure vegan for a month with a no-fat diet. With skipping breakfast to boot. Get sweaty for half an hour every day.