When we eat too much, obesity may develop as a result of chronically high insulin levels, not the other way around. That's according to new evidence in mice reported in the December 4th Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press publication, which challenges the widespread view that rising insulin is a secondary consequence of obesity and insulin resistance.
The new study helps to solve this chicken-or-the-egg dilemma by showing that animals with persistently lower insulin stay trim even as they indulge themselves on a high-fat, all-you-can-eat buffet. The findings come as some of the first direct evidence in mammals that circulating insulin itself drives obesity, the researchers say.
The results are also consistent with clinical studies showing that long-term insulin use by people with diabetes tends to come with weight gain, says James Johnson of the University of British Columbia.
"We are very inclined to think of insulin as either good or bad, but it's neither," Johnson said. "This doesn't mean anyone should stop taking insulin; there are nuances and ranges at which insulin levels are optimal."
Johnson and his colleagues took advantage of a genetic quirk in mice: that they have two insulin genes. Insulin1 shows up primarily in the pancreas and insulin2 in the brain, in addition to the pancreas. By eliminating insulin2 altogether and varying the number of good copies of insulin1, the researchers produced mice that varied only in their fasting blood insulin levels. When presented with high-fat food, those with one copy and lower fasting insulin were completely protected from obesity even without any loss of appetite. They also enjoyed lower levels of inflammation and less fat in their livers, too.
Those differences traced to a "reprogramming" of the animals' fat tissue to burn and waste more energy in the form of heat. In other words, the mice had white fat that looked and acted more like the coveted, calorie-burning brown fat most familiar for keeping babies warm.
Johnson says it isn't clear what the findings might mean in the clinic just yet, noting that drugs designed to block insulin have been shown to come with unwanted side effects. But, he added, "there are ways to eat and diets that keep insulin levels lower or that allow insulin levels to return to a healthy baseline each day."
Unfortunately, constant snacking is probably not the answer.
Cell Press: http://www.cellpress.com
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Evidence was weak that marijuana helps anxiety and sleep disorders
Ageing doesn’t mean a steady descent into misery – evidence suggests that happiness is likely to increase as we head towards old age, but is it that simple?
The Ebola epidemic in Guinea that began early last year has set back the country's fight against malaria, say experts.
New diagnostics can find the DNA that drives a tumor, but evidence that they help patients is missing.
Scientists agree that children raised by same-sex couples are no worse off than children raised by parents of the opposite sex, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Oregon professor.
Children as young as 3 years old will step in to right the wrong if they see someone being mistreated, a study finds. But they aren't as keen as 5-year-olds to dole out punishment.
Millions suffer from SAD in summer as well as winter, and evidence hints that birth season plays a role in who develops the disorder
International panel says climate change is already affecting people's health, but there are steps we can take
A new federal study has answers
When Middle East respiratory syndrome erupted in South Korea, people started wearing masks everywhere, even at weddings. So how good are these masks at stopping MERS or even the flu?