Aims/hypothesis: Increased dietary fat intake is associated with obesity and insulin resistance, but studies have shown that the subsequent increase in insulin release is not appropriate for this obesity-induced insulin resistance. We therefore sought to determine whether the impaired beta cell adaptation is due to inadequate expansion of the beta cell population or to a lack of an adaptive increase in insulin release.
Methods: Male mice were fed diets containing increasing amounts of fat (15, 30 or 45% of energy intake) for 1 year, after which islet morphology and secretory function were assessed.
Results: Increased dietary fat intake was associated with a progressive increase in body weight (p<0.001). Fractional beta cell area (total beta cell area/section area) was increased with increasing dietary fat (1.36+/-0.39, 2.46+/-0.40 and 4.93+/-1.05%, p<0.001), due to beta cell hyperplasia, and was positively and highly correlated with body weight (r2=0.68, p<0.005). In contrast, insulin release following i.p. glucose did not increase with increasing dietary fat (118+/-32, 108+/-47 and 488+/-200 pmol/l per mmol/l, p=0.07) and did not correlate with body weight (r2=0.11). When this response was examined relative to fractional beta cell area (insulin release/fractional beta cell area), it did not increase but rather tended to decrease with increasing dietary fat (157+/-55, 43+/-13 and 97+/-53 [pmol/l per mmol/l]/%, p=0.06) and did not correlate with body weight (r2=0.02).
Conclusions/interpretation: Long-term fat feeding is associated with an increase in the beta cell population but an inadequate functional adaptation. Thus, a functional rather than a morphological abnormality appears to underlie dietary-fat-induced beta cell dysfunction.