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How Does Insulin Affect Fat Storage?

Last updated April 2, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

When the levels of glucose rise in blood, insulin production is triggered. This may occur when consumption of fat is high or even when a person undergoes fasting.

Fat is one of the three types of macronutrients needed by the body to perform functions such as growth, metabolism, and other body functions. Fat, protein and carbohydrates are considered to be macronutrients, because they are essential for the body and are required to be supplied regularly in optimal amounts.

Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas and is essential in transporting excess glucose to storage sites in the liver, muscles and fat cells. While the liver and muscle cells have a fixed limit of the amount of glucose they can store, the storage sites in fat cells appear to have an endless storage capacity, which can be seen by the massive physical sizes achieved by obese people. Hence, it is suggested that fat cells are affected by excess levels of glucose in the blood that is in turn a direct effect of consuming foods rich in fat.

Insulin's role in accumulating fat and obesity:

When food is taken in, especially foods rich in carbohydrates and fat, it gets broken down into glucose and is released into blood. This glucose is used for producing energy so that the body can do work by using that energy. When the levels of glucose rise in blood, insulin production is triggered. This may occur when consumption of fat is high or even when a person undergoes fasting. The insulin produced performs the function of convincing cells in the body to absorb glucose into it for various purposes, of which storage is one of the functions. When this glucose gets stored in cells for long periods of time, it increases the cell size and thus directly increases the body size as well.

Potential suggestions to deal with the negative effects of insulin:

The study performed by Kahn and Flier conclusively suggest that an increased uptake of foods rich in carbohydrates and fat will increase insulin production and a consequential increase in the amount of fat storage in our cells. This has a direct effect on our physiology by the increased risk of having diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other lifestyle affecting diseases.

Two methods that readily come to one's mind to avoid such risks or situations is by either optimizing one’s diet by reducing foods rich in fat and carbohydrates, and/or by combining it with regular physical exercise. It is suggested that simply being active daily can improve metabolism and reduce glucose storage in our cells. Some fat and carbohydrate is definitely required for a normal insulin production, but excessive or a complete lack of carbohydrate/fat intake would certainly wreak havoc with the delicate insulin mechanism of the body.

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Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: April 2, 2018
Last updated: April 2, 2018