November 7, 2014

Overactive stress response in obesity

An overactive stress response contributes to the development of insulin resistance in obese individuals, and blocking it may be therapeutically beneficial.

by Patricia Jumbo-Lucioni


Although obesity is recognized as major risk factor for insulin resistance, not all obese individuals develop this defect. Increased activation of the so-called “fight-or-flight response system”, usually triggered by stress, is a common feature in both obesity and insulin resistance conditions. Alfredo Gamboa, M.D., and colleagues hypothesized that such over-activation in obesity contributed to the development of insulin resistance.

To address this hypothesis, the investigators measured insulin sensitivity in obese subjects with an intact “fight-or-flight response system”, and then again under the effect of a drug known to block this response. They report in the October issue of Hypertension that insulin-resistant obese subjects had an overactive stress response. These patients, unlike insulin-sensitive obese individuals, improved their insulin sensitivity immediately after blocking this response.

These findings underscore the importance of blocking this overactive stress response to control insulin resistance in obesity, and prevent the associated complications.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (HL056693, NS065736, HL095905, TR000445).

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