Hyperinsulinemia: the missing link among oxidative stress and age-related diseases?

Free Radic Biol Med. 2000 Dec 15;29(12):1302-6. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(00)00438-x.


Mounting evidence supports Harman's hypothesis that aging is caused by free radicals and oxidative stress. Although it is known that oxidant species are produced during metabolic reactions, it is largely unknown which factor(s), of physiological or pathophysiological significance, modulate their production in vivo. In this hypothesis paper, it is postulated that hyperinsulinemia may have such function and therefore promote aging, independently of elevations of glycemia. Hyperinsulinemia is secondary to impaired insulin stimulated glucose metabolism at the level of skeletal muscle (insulin resistance) and is seen in about one third of glucose tolerant humans following dietary carbohydrate intake. If other insulin-stimulated (or inhibited) pathways retain normal sensitivity to the hormone, hyperinsulinemia could, by its effects on antioxidative enzymes and on free radical generators, enhance oxidative stress. Other proaging effects of insulin involve the inhibition of proteasome and the stimulation of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) synthesis and of nitric oxide (NO). The hypothesis that hyperinsulinemia accelerates aging also offers a metabolic explanation for the life-prolonging effect of calorie restriction and of mutations decreasing the overall activity of insulin-like receptors in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Chronic Disease*
  • Humans
  • Hyperinsulinism / physiopathology*
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*


  • Insulin