Physiological Responses to Carbohydrate Overfeeding

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Purpose of Review: To consider emerging research into the physiological effects of excessive dietary carbohydrate intake, with a particular focus on interactions with physical activity.
Recent Findings: A single episode of massive carbohydrate overload initiates physiological responses to stimulate additional peptide hormone secretion by the gut and the conversion of carbohydrate into lipid by the intestine, liver and adipose tissue. These acute responses maintain glycaemic control both via increased oxidation of carbohydrate (rather than lipid) and via non-oxidative disposal of surplus carbohydrate into endogenous glycogen and lipid storage depots. Sustained carbohydrate overfeeding therefore results in a chronic accumulation of lipid in the liver, skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, which can impair insulin sensitivity and cardiometabolic health in general. Beyond any direct effect of such lipid deposition on body mass/composition, there is not yet clear evidence of physiologically meaningful metabolic or behavioural adaptations to carbohydrate overfeeding in terms of other components of energy balance. However, regular physical exercise can mitigate the negative health effects of carbohydrate overfeeding, independent of any effect on the net carbohydrate surplus.
Summary: Research in this area has advanced understanding regarding the mechanisms of weight-gain and associated health outcomes within the modern context of an abundant supply of dietary carbohydrate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-384
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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