Dietary weight loss in insulin-resistant non-obese humans: Metabolic benefits and relationship to adipose cell size

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2019 Jan;29(1):62-68. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2018.09.014. Epub 2018 Oct 11.


Background and aims: Overweight and obesity increase risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, largely through development of insulin resistance. Benefits of dietary weight loss are documented for obese individuals with insulin resistance. Similar benefits have not been shown in overweight individuals. We sought to quantify whether dietary weight loss improves metabolic risk profile in overweight insulin-resistant individuals, and evaluated potential mediators between weight loss and metabolic response.

Methods and results: Healthy volunteers with BMI 25-29.9 kg/m2 underwent detailed metabolic phenotyping including insulin-mediated-glucose disposal, fasting/daylong glucose, insulin, triglycerides, FFA, and cholesterol. Subcutaneous fat biopsies were performed for measurement of adipose cell size. After 14 weeks of hypocaloric diet and 2 weeks of weight maintenance, cardiometabolic measures and biopsies were repeated. Changes in weight, % body fat, waist circumference, adipose cell size and FFA were evaluated as predictors of change in insulin resistance. Weight loss (4.3 kg) yielded significant improvements in insulin resistance and all cardiovascular risk markers except glucose, HDL-C, and LDL-C. Improvement in insulin sensitivity was greater among those with <2 vs >2 cardiovascular risk factors at baseline. Decrease in adipose cell size and waist circumference, but not weight or body fat, independently predicted improvement in insulin resistance.

Conclusions: Weight loss yields metabolic health benefits in insulin-resistant overweight adults, even in the absence of classic cardiovascular risk factors. Weight loss-related improvement in insulin sensitivity may be mediated through changes in adipose cell size and/or central distribution of body fat. The insulin-resistant subgroup of overweight individuals should be identified and targeted for dietary weight loss.

Clinical trials identifier: NCT00186459.

Keywords: Adipocyte; Adipose cell; Adipose tissue; Cardiovascular risk; Insulin resistance; Overweight; Waist circumference; Weight loss.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipocytes / pathology*
  • Adiposity
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Cell Size*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Lipids / blood
  • Overweight / blood
  • Overweight / diagnosis
  • Overweight / diet therapy*
  • Overweight / physiopathology
  • San Francisco
  • Subcutaneous Fat / metabolism
  • Subcutaneous Fat / pathology*
  • Subcutaneous Fat / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waist Circumference
  • Weight Loss*


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Lipids

Associated data