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Nutr Metab (Lond). 2009 Sep 28;6:37. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-6-37.

Early responses of insulin signaling to high-carbohydrate and high-fat overfeeding.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado, USA.



Early molecular changes of nutritionally-induced insulin resistance are still enigmatic. It is also unclear if acute overnutrition alone can alter insulin signaling in humans or if the macronutrient composition of the diet can modulate such effects.


To investigate the molecular correlates of metabolic adaptation to either high-carbohydrate (HC) or high-fat (HF) overfeeding, we conducted overfeeding studies in 21 healthy lean (BMI < 25) individuals (10 women, 11 men), age 20-45, with normal glucose metabolism and no family history of diabetes. Subjects were studied first following a 5-day eucaloric (EC) diet (30% fat, 50% CHO, 20% protein) and then in a counter balanced manner after 5 days of 40% overfeeding of both a HC (20% fat, 60% CHO) diet and a HF (50% fat, 30% CHO) diet. At the end of each diet phase, in vivo insulin sensitivity was assessed using the hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp technique. Ex vivo insulin action was measured from skeletal muscle tissue samples obtained 15 minutes after insulin infusion was initiated.


Overall there was no change in whole-body insulin sensitivity as measured by glucose disposal rate (GDR, EC: 12.1 ± 4.7; HC: 10.9 ± 2.7; HF: 10.8 ± 3.4). Assessment of skeletal muscle insulin signaling demonstrated increased tyrosine phosphorylation of IRS-1 (p < 0.001) and increased IRS-1-associated phosphatidylinositol 3 (PI 3)-kinase activity (p < 0.001) following HC overfeeding. In contrast, HF overfeeding increased skeletal muscle serine phosophorylation of IRS-1 (p < 0.001) and increased total expression of p85α (P < 0.001).


We conclude that acute bouts of overnutrition lead to changes at the cellular level before whole-body insulin sensitivity is altered. On a signaling level, HC overfeeding resulted in changes compatible with increased insulin sensitivity. In contrast, molecular changes in HF overfeeding were compatible with a reduced insulin sensitivity.

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