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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Effects of body weight and alcohol consumption on insulin sensitivity

Qiwei X Paulson, Jina Hong, Valerie B Holcomb and Nomeli P Nunez*

Author Affiliations

Department of Nutritional Sciences, College of Natural Sciences, the University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA

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Nutrition Journal 2010, 9:14  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-14

Published: 22 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Obesity is a risk factor for the development of insulin resistance, which can eventually lead to type-2 diabetes. Alcohol consumption is a protective factor against insulin resistance, and thus protects against the development of type-2 diabetes. The mechanism by which alcohol protects against the development of type-2 diabetes is not well known. To determine the mechanism by which alcohol improves insulin sensitivity, we fed water or alcohol to lean, control, and obese mice. The aim of this study was to determine whether alcohol consumption and body weights affect overlapping metabolic pathways and to identify specific target genes that are regulated in these pathways.

Method

Adipose tissue dysfunction has been associated with the development of type-2 diabetes. We assessed possible gene expression alterations in epididymal white adipose tissue (WAT). We obtained WAT from mice fed a calorie restricted (CR), low fat (LF Control) or high fat (HF) diets and either water or 20% ethanol in the drinking water. We screened the expression of genes related to the regulation of energy homeostasis and insulin regulation using a gene array composed of 384 genes.

Results

Obesity induced insulin resistance and calorie restriction and alcohol improved insulin sensitivity. The insulin resistance in obese mice was associated with the increased expression of inflammatory markers Cd68, Il-6 and Il-1α; in contrast, most of these genes were down-regulated in CR mice. Anti-inflammatory factors such as Il-10 and adrenergic beta receptor kinase 1 (Adrbk1) were decreased in obese mice and increased by CR and alcohol. Also, we report a direct correlation between body weight and the expression of the following genes: Kcnj11 (potassium inwardly-rectifying channel, subfamily J, member 11), Lpin2 (lipin2), and Dusp9 (dual-specificity MAP kinase phosphatase 9).

Conclusion

We show that alcohol consumption increased insulin sensitivity. Additionally, alterations in insulin sensitivity related with obesity were coupled with alterations in inflammatory genes. We provide evidence that alcohol may improve insulin sensitivity by up-regulating anti-inflammatory genes. Moreover, we have indentified potential gene targets in energy metabolic pathways and signal transducers that may contribute to obesity-related insulin resistance as well as calorie restriction and alcohol-induced insulin sensitivity.