Which comes first: high insulin or obesity?

Do you become obese because of high insulin or does high insulin follow obesity?

In this chicken-or-egg scenario, new research shows that the former is true--a notion that contradicts current theory about the subject. The University of British Columbia study was published this week in Cell Metabolism.

Engineered mice eat their hearts out

Researchers found that mice with lower insulin levels stayed thinner, even when they were indulging in high-fat foods.

Mice have two insulin genes--giving them a unique genetic difference. They have Insulin 1 in the pancreas and Insulin 2 in the brain and pancreas. Scientists were able to develop mice that only had Insulin 1 but that varied in their fasting blood insulin levels. Mice with only Insulin 1 who had lower fasting insulin seemed to be able to eat whatever they wanted--and they didn't become obese.

Study author James Johnson said that "reprogramming" the animals' insulin levels led to them burning and wasting more energy via heat.

Implications for diabetes

So what does this mean for diabetics? Johnson notes that the study doesn't have clear implications for humans just yet, but that diet can indeed play a big role in helping insulin levels to even out.

"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," said Johnson.

The results of the study support other widespread evidence that diabetics who take insulin long-term can suffer from weight gain and, ultimately, obesity. But don't toss your insulin stash just yet.

"This doesn't mean anyone should stop taking insulin," Johnson said. "There are nuances and ranges at which insulin levels are optimal."

Source: Science Daily

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