Insulin resistance protects the heart from fuel overload in dysregulated metabolic states

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2013 Dec;305(12):H1693-7. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00854.2012. Epub 2013 Oct 4.


Reversing impaired insulin sensitivity has been suggested as treatment for heart failure. However, recent clinical evidence suggests the opposite. Here we present a line of reasoning in support of the hypothesis that insulin resistance protects the heart from the consequences of fuel overload in the dysregulated metabolic state of obesity and diabetes. We discuss pathways of myocardial fuel toxicity, as well as several layers of defense against fuel overload. Our reassessment of the literature suggests that in the heart, insulin-sensitizing agents result in an elimination of some of the defenses, leading to cytotoxic damage. In contrast, a normalization of fuel supply should either prevent or reverse the process. Taken together, we offer a new perspective on insulin resistance of the heart.

Keywords: insulin resistance; metabolism; obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Obesity / metabolism*


  • Insulin