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High-Calorie Diet Causes Insulin Resistance Within Days

Diets high in calories contribute to rapid weight gain and obesity, which is the highest risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia conducted a study to determine what impact modern, high-calorie diets have on the human body and how fast it can lead to a pre-diabetic condition.

The study included six healthy men who were all either overweight or of normal weight. The participants consumed about 6,000 calories every day for a duration of one week. According to the Institute of Medicine, a healthy diet for the average sedentary male aged 30-50 years should average about 2,200 calories, so the amount of calories these participants consumed a day is 3,800 calories higher than recommended. The diet consisted of about 50% carbohydrates, 35% fats, and 15% protein. For the duration of the trial, the participants were also asked to do no physical activity.

In just one week, all of the men gained an average of about 8 pounds and in as little as two days after starting the diet all of the men developed systemic and adipose insulin resistance and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is usually caused by overeating and the production of excessive amounts of oxygen byproducts are extremely toxic to cells.
This oxidative stress appeared to trigger changes to a glucose transporter protein known as GLUT4 by affecting the protein’s ability to take up glucose in response to insulin, leading to insulin resistance and providing a likely causal link between overeating and insulin resistance. The results of this study suggests that an antioxidant treatment designed to target GLUT4 might one day help control insulin resistance linked to obesity.

Practice Pearls:

  • In just one week, all of the men gained an average of about 8 pounds and in as little as two days after starting the diet all of the men developed systemic and adipose insulin resistance and oxidative stress.
  • This oxidative stress appeared to trigger changes to a glucose transporter protein known as GLUT4 by affecting the protein’s ability to take up glucose in response to insulin, leading to insulin resistance and providing a likely causal link between overeating and insulin resistance.
  • The results of this study suggests that an antioxidant treatment designed to target GLUT4 might one day help control insulin resistance linked to obesity.

Boden G, Homko C, Barrero CA, et al. “Excessive caloric intake acutely causes oxidative stress, GLUT4 carbonylation, and insulin resistance in healthy men.” Sci Transl Med. 2015;7(304).