School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


30 Aug 2017

A single day of eating high-fat food has a significant effect on insulin action

One day of binge eating could reduce whole-body insulin sensitivity by up to 28%, a new study has found.

It is widely accepted that consuming excessive amounts of dietary fat for several days, or weeks, impairs glycaemic control leading to a rise in blood sugar beyond normal levels.

Elevated blood sugar levels are associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

However, scientists have remained unsure about the metabolic responses to shorter periods of overeating, such as those seen in people with binge eating disorders, or during times of celebration.

Now, researchers from Loughborough University have published a paper, titled ‘A Single Day of Excessive Dietary Fat Intake Reduces Whole-Body Insulin Sensitivity: The Metabolic Consequence of Binge Eating’, which aims to answer this question.

Their results show that just one day of binge eating on high-fat foods increases blood glucose and insulin levels after consumption of a sugary test drink, indicating a substantial impairment in the body’s ability to handle sugar effectively.

“This is important as excess sugar levels can be toxic,” said Dr Carl Hulston, the senior author of the paper.

“Not only this, but sustained over-production of insulin – by the pancreas – can lead to pancreatic dysfunction and an inability to produce insulin when it is needed.

“These facts highlight the need to be conscious of what we eat and how it might affect our health.”

Fifteen young, healthy adults took part in the study and were fed a diet consisting of high-fat foods such as sausages, bacon, fried eggs, cheese, beef burgers, and cheesecake before undergoing an oral glucose tolerance test.

The participants were healthy, physically active, non-smokers, and free from any cardiovascular or metabolic disease, which makes the results of the study even more interesting as it is generally assumed that these characteristics would offer some protection against the negative effects of bad dietary choices.

Siôn Parry, who completed this research as part of his PhD studentship at the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, said: “Our pilot data suggests that a single day of high-fat overfeeding is sufficient to impair whole-body insulin sensitivity in young, healthy individuals; this may have implications for those with binge eating disorders, or those who overeat during holiday periods or at times of celebration.

“Further research is required to determine which specific aspects of the diet produce this response, along with the underpinning mechanisms.

“We also do not know how long the negative effects of this diet last, or whether repeated periods of short-term, high-fat overfeeding leads to a progressive worsening of glycaemic control.

“Overall, although our dietary model was quite extreme, our data highlights the rapidity with which high-fat overfeeding can negatively impact glycaemic control.”