How Type 2 Diabetics Gain Weight on Insulin

This study looks at how a Diabetic is affected strongly by taking Insulin (A. Franssila-Kallunki, L. Groop. Factors associated with basal metabolic rate in patients with Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus. Diabetologia; October 1992, Volume 35, Issue 10, pp 962–966.). The study looked at:

66 Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetic and 24 healthy age- and weight-matched control subjects…

The interesting part is that some of the diabetics were looked at both before and after insulin therapy.

Eight Type 2 diabetic patients were re-studied after a period of insulin therapy.

In the following analysis, take note that the group put on Insulin therapy was a subset of the original group of Diabetics so their numbers were different (more exaggerated) from the rest of the Diabetics group.

Weight Gain on Insulin

The group on the Insulin treatment saw their BMI increase from 28.2 to 29.6 kg/m^2.

Basal Metabolic Rate

The control and Diabetics groups were weight matched. Surprisingly, the BMR in the Diabetics was 13% higher than the control group:

Basal metabolic rate was higher in Type 2 diabetic patients than in control subjects (102.8 ± 1.9 J · kg LBM−1-min−1 vs 90.7 ± 2.8 J · kg LBM−1;min−1; p<0.01)

Insulin treatment reduced the BMR of the Diabetics (115.5 ± 5.6 to 103.1 ± 5.7). It is question begging whether the lowered BMR caused the BMI increase with Insulin.

Diabetics Produce More Glucose

Not surprisingly the Type 2 Diabetics were producing glucose from their livers at significantly higher rates than the control group.

 The basal rate of hepatic glucose production was higher in Type 2 diabetic patients than in control subjects (1044.0 ± 29.9 vs 789.3 ± 41.7 μmol/min; p <0.001)

Insulin therapy decreased glucose production (1133 ± 92 to 983 ± 80). In theory this is good. A possible explanation of the effect of Insulin is that it took more insulin to overcome the Insulin Resistance of the liver. Insulin therapy isn’t a great long term solution, though, since the liver will eventually become even more Insulin Resistant and require ever increasing levels of exogenous Insulin.

Insulin Therapy Reduced Fat Oxidation Rate

The fat oxidation of the Diabetics was reduced when Insulin therapy was added:

Lipid oxidation was increased in Type 2 diabetic patients compared with control subjects (1.68 ± 0.05 vs 1.37 ± 0.08 μmol · kg LBM−1 · min−1‘; p <0.01) and decreased significantly after insulin therapy (p<0.05).

The lipid oxidation rate fell from 2.1 ± 0.1 to 1.4 ± 0.1 with the addition of Insulin therapy. A key phrase in the discussion section is:

lipid oxidation accounted for the major part of the BMR

So, putting someone on Insulin reduces their fat oxidation rate. If Type 2 Diabetes is a problem of fat build-up then Insulin therapy isn’t helping. It’s making Diabetics fatter. Yes, it is driving down Serum Glucose levels in the short term.

Fasting Insulin

Of note is the difference in the Fasting Serum Insulin levels between the Diabetics (64 ± 5) and the control group (37 ± 4).

The subset of the Diabetics put on Insulin therapy had higher Fasting Insulin levels than the lumped group of all diabetics. With the addition of exogenous Insulin therapy the Fasting Serum Insulin levels in the Diabetic (subset) increased from 84 to 132.

That would, of course, indicate that the part of the Diabetics group that was not put on Insulin had a much lower fasting Insulin level. This is interesting given that the error bar was ±5 so the group put on Insulin therapy at 84 +± 11 was many standard deviations out of the entire group.

The paradox here is that even with higher fasting insulin levels the fat oxidation rate in the diabetics indicates that the additional fasting insulin levels didn’t seem to stop the diabetics from being able to burn fat. The paradox is that the fat oxidation rate decreased with Insulin Therapy which would indicate the opposite conclusion.

This fits the hypothesis that Insulin Resistance in the liver is a primary driver rather than insulin resistance in adipose cells.

Calories out is much more complicated than just a number on a paper.


Author: Doug

I'm an Engineer who is also a science geek. I was pre-diabetic in 1996 and became a diabetic in 2003. I decided to figure out how to hack my diabetes and in 2016 found the ketogetic diet which reversed my diabetes.

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