Molecular Adaptations of Adipose Tissue to 6 weeks of Morning Fasting vs Daily Breakfast Consumption in Lean and Obese Adults: Extended morning fasting and adipose tissue physiology

Javier Gonzalez, Judith Richardson, Enhad Chowdhury, Francoise Koumanov, Geoffrey Holman, Scott Cooper, Dylan Thompson, Kostas Tsintzas, James Betts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


Key points: In lean individuals, 6 weeks of extended morning fasting increases the expression of genes involved in lipid turnover (ACADM) and insulin signalling (IRS2) in subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue. In obese individuals, 6 weeks of extended morning fasting increases IRS2 expression in subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue. The content and activation status of key proteins involved in insulin signalling and glucose transport (GLUT4, Akt1 and Akt2) were unaffected by extended morning fasting. Therefore, any observations of altered adipose tissue insulin sensitivity with extended morning fasting do not necessarily require changes in insulin signalling proximal to Akt. Insulin-stimulated adipose tissue glucose uptake rates are lower in obese versus lean individuals, but this difference is abolished when values are normalised to whole-body fat mass. This suggests a novel hypothesis which proposes that the reduced adipose glucose uptake in obesity is a physiological down-regulation to prevent excessive de novo lipogenesis. Abstract: This study assessed molecular responses of human subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (SCAT) to 6 weeks of morning fasting. Forty-nine healthy lean (n = 29) and obese (n = 20) adults provided SCAT biopsies before and after 6 weeks of morning fasting (FAST; 0 kcal until 12.00 h) or daily breakfast consumption (BFAST; ≥700 kcal before 11.00 h). Biopsies were analysed for mRNA levels of selected genes, and GLUT4 and Akt protein content. Basal and insulin-stimulated Akt activation and tissue glucose uptake rates were also determined. In lean individuals, lipid turnover and insulin signalling genes (ACADM and IRS2) were up-regulated with FAST versus BFAST (ACADM: 1.14 (95% CI: 0.97–1.30) versus 0.80 (95% CI: 0.64–0.96), P = 0.007; IRS2: 1.75 (95% CI: 1.33–2.16) versus 1.09 (95% CI: 0.67–1.51), P = 0.03, respectively). In obese individuals, no differential (FAST versus BFAST) expression was observed in genes involved in lipid turnover (all P > 0.1). GLUT4, Akt protein content and insulin-stimulated Akt phosphorylation were unaffected by FAST versus BFAST in both lean and obese cohorts (all P > 0.1). Lower insulin-stimulated glucose uptake rates in obese versus lean individuals were eradicated when normalised to whole-body fat mass (P = 0.416). We conclude that morning fasting up-regulates lipid turnover genes in SCAT of lean individuals. Secondly, altered SCAT insulin sensitivity with morning fasting is unlikely to be explained by signalling proximal to Akt. Finally, lower insulin-stimulated SCAT glucose uptake rates in obese individuals are proportional to whole-body fat mass, suggesting a compensatory down-regulation, presumably to prevent excessive de novo lipogenesis in adipose tissue. This trial was registered as ISRCTN31521726.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-622
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number4
Early online date28 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2018



  • Adipose tissue
  • Metabolism
  • Nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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