Insulin resistance impairs fat loss

When you’re insulin resistant, muscle is more easily lost.

Losing weight in a healthy way means losing body fat, not lean muscle mass. 

But a new study shows that people with insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia are more likely to lose more lean mass and less fat mass compared to those without insulin resistance.

This finding has potentially profound implications for helping people achieve healthy weight loss, notes Dr. Bret Scher, Diet Doctor’s Medical Director, in the latest DD News video. 

“If you’re burning more lean mass and less fat mass, that’s really the opposite of healthy weight loss,” says Dr. Scher, adding that when you lose lean muscle, you also lower your metabolism. “That’s when you also will see resting metabolic rates start to decrease, which makes weight maintenance harder down the road.”

The study was conducted by Dr. David Ludwig and his team at Harvard and published September 29 in The Journal of Nutrition. The authors looked at two large weight loss trials. Both trials were designed to help obese subjects lose weight with calorie restriction. One used a calorie-restricted moderate carb diet and the other used a calorie-restricted very low carbohydrate diet.

The Journal of Nutrition: Stimulated Insulin Secretion Predicts Changes in Body Composition Following Weight Loss in Adults with High BMI 

Insulin resistance is common among people who are overweight or obese, or who have health conditions like prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, PCOS, hypertension, and fatty liver disease.

The study’s main finding, notes Dr. Scher “quite simply was that the more insulin resistant the subjects were, the higher their insulin level, the more likely they were to lose lean mass and less fat mass.“ Dr. Scher notes this occurred on both diets.

So how do you lose body fat in a healthier way? Dr. Scher suggests that eating a higher protein, low-carb diet and doing some resistance training, such as lifting weights. These approaches help maintain and build muscle, can help improve insulin resistance, and can lead to healthier weight loss that can be more easily maintained long term.

Check out Dr. Scher’s video to understand how to reduce your insulin resistance and improve your ability to lose fat mass, and not muscle, when you go on a weight loss diet.

To find out more about insulin resistance, check out the Diet Doctor evidence-based guide.

Each week, Dr. Scher takes a scientific study in the fields of nutrition, exercise, health, or disease and carefully analyses the researchers’ methods and findings. In doing so, he helps you better understand how to judge the quality of various research papers and make informed decisions about your own health and wellness. 

You can find more of Dr. Scher’s news videos on the Diet Doctor Youtube Channel. Subscribe to the feed so that you don’t miss any of his videos.

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For more on how what can affect your insulin resistance, please check out our other guides:

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