A single day of eating high-fat food has a significant effect on insulin action – even if you’re young, fit and healthy

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.”


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 17/119

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines. It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world to study sports-related subjects in the 2017 QS World University Rankings and top in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough was ranked 6th in the Guardian University League Table 2018 and 10th in The UK Complete University Guide 2018 and was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017. It has been awarded a Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework, which recognises institutions that deliver consistently outstanding teaching that is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.