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A high-fat, high-saturated fat diet decreases insulin sensitivity without changing intra-abdominal fat in weight-stable overweight and obese adults


Insulin sensitivity is improved by hypocaloric dietary interventions irrespective of whether they are low or high in fat content, but this effect may be attributed to weight loss itself rather than diet composition.


We sought to determine the effects of dietary fat on insulin sensitivity in weight-stable subjects and whether changes in insulin sensitivity were explained by changes in abdominal fat distribution or very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) fatty acid composition.

Materials and methods

Overweight/obese adults with normal glucose tolerance consumed a control diet (35% fat/12% saturated fat/47% carbohydrate) for ten days, followed by a four week low fat (LFD, n=10: 20% fat/8% saturated fat/62% carbohydrate) or high fat diet (HFD, n=10: 55% fat/25% saturated fat/27% carbohydrate). All foods were provided and adjusted for weight stability. Insulin sensitivity was measured by labeled hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps, abdominal fat distribution by MRI and fasting VLDL fatty acids by gas chromatography.


The rate of glucose disposal (Rd) during low- and high-dose insulin, decreased on the HFD but remained unchanged on the LFD (Rd-low: LFD: 0.12±0.11 vs. HFD: -3.67±0.15 mmol/min, mean±SE, p<0.01; Rd-high: LFD: 0.11±0.37 vs. HFD: -0.71±0.26 mmol/min, p=0.08). Hepatic insulin sensitivity did not change. Changes in subcutaneous fat were positively associated with changes in insulin sensitivity on the LFD: r=0.78, p<0.01) with a trend on the HFD (r=0.60, p=0.07), whereas there was no association with intra-abdominal fat. The LFD led to an increase in VLDL stearic, palmitoleic and palmitic acids, while no changes were observed on the HFD. Changes in VLDL 22: 5n6 were strongly associated with changes in insulin sensitivity on both diets (LFD: r=-0.77; p<0.01; HFD: r=-0.71; p=0.02).


A diet high in fat and saturated fat adversely affects insulin sensitivity and thereby might contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.

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Correspondence to Anize Delfino von Frankenberg.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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von Frankenberg, A.D., Marina, A., Song, X. et al. A high-fat, high-saturated fat diet decreases insulin sensitivity without changing intra-abdominal fat in weight-stable overweight and obese adults. Diabetol Metab Syndr 7 (Suppl 1), A234 (2015).

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