The effect of dietary fiber and other factors on insulin response: role in obesity

J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 1985 Jul;5(6):137-55.


Epidemiologic evidence favors the hypothesis that obesity may result from the fiber-depleted diet of industrialized societies. Since hyperinsulinemia is a universal characteristic and perhaps causal of obesity, the possibility is considered that dietary factors causing excess insulin secretion might lead to obesity. Dietary glucose causes a slightly greater insulin rise than cooked starch containing an equal amount of carbohydrate, and high fiber starchy foods cause a much lesser insulin response than does glucose in solution. Doubling the dose of carbohydrate in a meal causes only a small increase in glucose response but a large increase in insulin response. Dietary fiber could act by displacing some of the carbohydrate that would normally be absorbable in the small intestine, or could translocate the carbohydrate to a point lower in the intestinal tract where less effect on insulin secretion would be observed. Evidence is presented that a higher fiber diet is associated with a higher concentration of fasting circulating free fatty acids, a lesser post-cibal decrease in circulating free fatty acids and triglycerides and less chronic increase in fasting triglycerides than a low fiber diet. These differences are associated with a lesser insulin response to high fiber meals. The extreme fluctuations between the fed and fasted states seen with low fiber diets are thus dampened by high fiber diets. The less complete inhibition of lipolysis during the fed state, and more intense lipolysis during fasting, suggested by the above data, might tend to prevent obesity. The mechanisms of the lesser insulin response to high rather than low fiber meals are not known, but the possibility that dietary fiber decreases the GIP response is considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / pharmacology
  • Dietary Fiber / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Proteins / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Gastric Inhibitory Polypeptide / physiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Rats


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Insulin
  • Lipids
  • Gastric Inhibitory Polypeptide