The Composition of Dietary Fat Directly Influences Glucose-Stimulated Insulin Secretion in Rats

  1. Robert L. Dobbins1,
  2. Lidia S. Szczepaniak1,
  3. Jeff Myhill1,
  4. Yoshifumi Tamura2,
  5. Hiroshi Uchino2,
  6. Adria Giacca2 and
  7. J. Denis McGarry13
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
  2. 2Department of Physiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Department of Biochemistry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Dallas, Texas


    Acute elevations of plasma free fatty acid (FFA) levels augment glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS). Prolonged elevations of FFA levels reportedly impair GSIS, but no one has previously compared GSIS after prolonged exposure to saturated or unsaturated fat. Rats received a low-fat diet (Low-Fat) or one enriched with either saturated (Lard) or unsaturated fat (Soy) for 4 weeks. Insulin responses during hyperglycemic clamps were augmented by saturated but not unsaturated fat (580 ± 25, 325 ± 30, and 380 ± 50 pmol · l−1 · min−1 in Lard, Soy, and Low-Fat groups, respectively). Despite hyperinsulinemia, the amount of glucose infused was lower in the Lard compared with the Low-Fat group. Separate studies measured GSIS from the perfused pancreas. Without fatty acids in the perfusate, insulin output in the Lard group (135 ± 22 ng/30 min) matched that of Low-Fat rats (115 ± 13 ng/30 min), but exceeded that of Soy rats (80 ± 7 ng/30 min). When FFAs in the perfusate mimicked the quantity and composition of plasma FFAs in intact animals, in vivo insulin secretory patterns were restored. Because the GSIS of rats consuming Lard diets consistently exceeded that of the Soy group, we also assessed responses after 48-h infusions of lard or soy oil. Again, lard oil exhibited greater insulinotropic potency. These data indicate that prolonged exposure to saturated fat enhances GSIS (but this does not entirely compensate for insulin resistance), whereas unsaturated fat, given in the diet or by infusion, impairs GSIS. Inferences regarding the impact of fatty acids on GSIS that are based on models using unsaturated fat may not reflect the effects of saturated fat.


    • Address correspondence and reprint requests to Robert L. Dobbins, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, 75390-9135. E-mail: robert.dobbins{at}

      Received for publication 26 June 2001 and accepted in revised form 4 March 2002.

      FFA, free fatty acid; GSIS, glucose-stimulated insulin secretion; Lard, saturated fat protocol; PPAR, peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor; Saline, saline protocol; Soy, unsaturated fat protocol; TG, triglyceride; UCP2, uncoupling protein-2.

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