Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the faster a cell processes insulin, the more fat it stores

Sounds like a job for a low carb diet!

Findings show insulin -- not genes -- linked to obesity


Ankit "Urban Monk" Shah said...

I'm curious about the implications of this. For some reason, I feel like eating fast-acting carbs in certain situations (like post workout) would be more beneficial than eating slow carbs. My reasoning is that high-gi carbs would exit the bloodstream in a much more rapid manner while slow-acting carbs would keep insulin elevated over a longer interval of time.

Any thoughts?

Stephan said...

These guys are catching up to what anyone with common sense already knew: genes are not behind the obesity epidemic.

Chris said...

Ankit - i think people get too complicated over pre/post workout carbs in most circumstances. I tend to think that high GI / GL carbs are never really a good idea.

pooti said...

Chris, excellent post on this study! Great info!

So the question would be...about hyperinsulinism -

Do you think that because hyperinsulinemics produce exponentially more glucose than someone with a so-called normal metabolism, do their cells have a great propensity to store more fat that the person with a normal metabolism?

And I know that with hyperinsulinemia the insulin receptor sites on the cells have been down regulated but still...do you think that has any bearing or do you think it is talking about a specific cell with a higher metabolic rate of insulin and that quantity of present insulin is irrelevant?

Anonymous said...

I don't see how that article in any way supports a low carb lifestyle. At best it's findings imply that it's irrelevant, and at worst harmful.

Although it was never explained why, the Purdue researchers were saying that the faster a cell processes insulin, the more fat it is able to store. I take that to mean that basically insulin sensitivity - the goal of a low-carb diet - makes a person fatter.

On the surface, that does appear reasonable. If the sugar in the blood can't get into the cells then it can't be turned into fat (adipogenesis) and so has to go somewhere (out of the body) right?

Wrong. That sugar doesn't go anywhere. All it does is stay in the blood stream, causing more and more insulin to be secreeted. Eventually, the situation becomes that the pancreas can't work as efficiently and, assuming no change in sugar intake, doesn't secreet enough insulin to uptake the sugar needing uptaking.

That's when a new process to get the sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells as fat kicks in. It's not something I know enough to be able to name, but I can tell you with certainty that it, and not the magical disappearance of excess blood sugar from the body, is what's happening.

How? Because type-II diabetics are still eating a lot of carbs (instead of outright sugar) and they aren't getting thinner. Despite what they think, by cutting out candy, diabetics aren't increasing their sensitivity and if they put two and two together, they'd see that having to take anti-diabetic drugs and/or insulin supplements was proof of that.

The Purdue findings ignore the bigger picture and contradict emperical evidence. Those researchers are basically just assuming that excess sugar somehow leaves the body if it's not put into cells, which obviously isn't the case. Far from offering further support of a low-carb diet, by creating the baseless idea that fat storage capacity is effected by sugar reception capacity, the study just muddies the waters in the diet debate

The study's methodology is all wrong and the findings, if anything, actually point to loweringinsulin sensitivity as the solution to obesity. Which, given that it's a NIH-funded study, it doesn't surprise me at all that Purdue is towing the low-fat party line.

Vas said...

Ankit "Urban Monk" Shah,
HiGI carbs are those that raise blood sugar rapidly. Low GI carbs raise blood sugar much slower. The GI index is not directly related to the rate of sugar removal from blood. HiGI carbs produce a much greater insulin spike. You are free to reason this any way you like.

I agree with anonymous above that the conclusion of the press article - looking at insulin signalling pathway - argues for more drugs. However, that's only one conclusion and one shouldn't attribute it to the scientists. All they are doing is trying to show that it's not always the genetics, but the expression of those genetics that's important.
(BTW, if the body is insensitive to insulin and doesn't take up sugar, the sugar gets excreted in urine, which is not considered a healthy adaptation)

Anonymous said...


Thanks. That was the proper conclusion to draw. I have a tendency in my writing to try to say too much. In the midst of trying to construct efficient, powerful sentences, I forget what I initially wanted my reader to conclude and instead come to conclusions that I shouldn't.

While I still think it's possible that these scientists are, even subconciously as a result of NIH pressure, looking for a way to justify low-fat dieting, nothing in the article said so. Even though the idea that insulin sensitivity directly affects fat storage capacity seems utterly bizzare, I shouldn't have been so harsh on them.

My main point - lost in all of my hyperbole - was that the article, if anything, argued against a low-carb diet.

Also, it's interesting that extra blood sugar is lost through urine. I knew that one of the symptoms of impending diabetic shock is increased urination, but I didn't put two and two together. I wonder how, in an assesment of overall health, the quantified negative effects of habitually urinating sugar would stack up against the negative effects (side effects) of taking anti-diabetics instead of just lowering carb intake.

Chris said...

Anon /Vas

the point I was making in posting this was that insulin drives fat storage. It is not some kind of genetic destiny.

and if you want to control insulin, you can cut carbs

anonymous said...


That might have been the point that you were making in posting this, but it wasn't the point that the Purdue study was making. Like I said, the only point, if any point, that anyone could derive from reading that paper was that carb consuption was at best irrelevant, and at worse, detrimental to obesity.

I understand where you're coming from, and I realize that you might have been writing for you audience, but by presenting this study in the way that you did, you did a disservice to them.

Half of the picture is no more useful than none of the picture.

Chris said...

Anonymous (why not just leave a name for the sake of politeness?)

sorry that you feel that way. I know that this was not the point of the study. I do not intend a disservice to readers but to point to information that I and they might find of interest. They can make of it what they will. Obviously a lot of what I post reveals my preference for a lower carb diet.

Anonymous said...


I would prefer to leave my name, but I have a reason not to. I hope that you can respect that. I believe that you will.

I certainly found that study of value and I'm glad that you linked to it. But your sentence "sounds like a job for a low carb diet!" unnecessarily prejudices the reader and, unless he is adequately educated, he would conclude that these finding play into the low carb paradigm. He wouldn't possibly be able to know how they do, but he would expect they do somehow.

The danger in that is that these findings don't support low carb at all. The value that I found in reading those findings was that it solidified my conviction that the medical establishment is hell bent on drugging their way out of everything.

But that is a rather esoteric conclusion to draw from reading that study. One that, if you were attempting to communicate it (and thus promoting low-carb as a better, simpler solution), should have been communicated fully or not at all.

Just saying something like "here's a link to a study that I think my readers will find interesting" would have been more responsible.

I know I'm nit-picking right now, but I guess that's another value I got from reading that article: the ability to apply another one of my interests (philosophy) to my interest in health. I hope you don't see it as coming at your expense.