A new study has found evidence to suggest that high levels of insulin could contribute to the risk of obesity in people with type 2 diabetes.
The research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that insulin treatment can trigger certain bodily functions in mice that cause them to become obese. Scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center conducted their study on mice who had been bred to lack certain receptors that respond to the hormone glucagon.
“We found that mice lacking the receptor for glucagon cannot get fat unless they are given the high levels of insulin found in mice (and humans) that have type 2 diabetes,” commented Dr. Michael Roth, Professor of Biochemistry at UT Southwestern and a member of the university’s Touchstone Diabetes Center.
In people without type 2 diabetes, insulin is used up transferring glucose from the bloodstream into the cells, but in those with the metabolic disorder, poor insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance can lead to high blood insulin levels – a state called hyperinsulinemia. This high concentration can also be caused by intensive insulin treatment.
The researchers warned that if the effect on the mice is also apparent in humans, doctors will have to take on extra considerations before recommending insulin therapy for already overweight patients.
The extra insulin in the blood could be aggravating obesity and therefore diabetes. Based on their findings, the researchers suggested that insulin treatment for type 2 diabetics should be replaced with greater control over diet and with treatments that focus on glucagon control instead.
Instead of focusing on insulin, there is apparently potential to affect this balance, and therefore treat diabetes, by changing glucagon levels, which should prevent the weight gaining effects of hyperinsulinemia that the researchers observed.

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