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Perspective
Hypothesis

Carbohydrates, insulin, and obesity

Insulin plays a role in body fat regulation independent of dietary carbohydrates
Science
7 May 2021
Vol 372, Issue 6542
pp. 577-578

Abstract

The primary cause of common human obesity remains uncertain. There are several plausible explanations, including the popular “carbohydrate-insulin” model (CIM), which suggests that body-fat gain results from consumption of carbohydrates that stimulate postprandial insulin, which promotes energy storage and further intake in a vicious cycle. The theoretical basis of the CIM has been refuted by several recent experiments. We suggest that although insulin plays an important role in body fat regulation, the CIM fails because it focuses on the direct action of insulin on adipose tissue after the consumption of a meal containing carbohydrates. Rather, we propose that the role of insulin in obesity may be better understood by considering its pleiotropic action on multiple organs that is driven by factors mostly independent of carbohydrate intake. Reconsidering the role of insulin may improve our understanding of the causes of obesity and its treatment.

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Science
Volume 372 | Issue 6542
7 May 2021

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Published in print: 7 May 2021

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Acknowledgments

J.R.S. is supported by the 1000 Talents Program, a professorial fellowship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences President's International Fellowship Initiative (PIFI), and a Wolfson Research Merit Award from the UK Royal Society. K.D.H. is supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Authors

Affiliations

John R. Speakman
Center for Energy Metabolism and Reproduction, Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenzhen, China.
State Key Lab of Molecular Developmental Biology, Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.
CAS Centre of Excellence in Animal Evolution and Genetics, Kunming, China.
Kevin D. Hall
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, MD, USA.

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Cited by

  1. The carbohydrate-insulin model: a physiological perspective on the obesity pandemic, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (2021).https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqab270
    Crossref
  2. Perspective: Does Glycemic Index Matter for Weight Loss and Obesity Prevention? Examination of the Evidence on “Fast” Compared with “Slow” Carbs, Advances in Nutrition, (2021).https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmab093
    Crossref
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