Paraphrasing the Swiss physician and father of toxicology Paracelsus (1493–1541) on chemical agents used as therapeutics, “the dose makes the poison,” it is now realized that this aptly applies to the calorigenic nutrients. The case here is the pancreatic islet β-cell presented with excessive levels of nutrients such as glucose, lipids, and amino acids. The short-term effects these nutrients exert on the β-cell are enhanced insulin biosynthesis and secretion and changes in glucose sensitivity. However, chronic fuel surfeit triggers additional compensatory and adaptive mechanisms by β-cells to cope with the increased insulin demand or to protect itself. When these mechanisms fail, toxicity due to the nutrient surplus ensues, leading to β-cell dysfunction, dedifferentiation, and apoptosis. The terms glucotoxicity, lipotoxicity, and glucolipotoxicity have been widely used, but there is some confusion as to what they mean precisely and which is most appropriate for a given situation. Here we address the gluco-, lipo-, and glucolipo-toxicities in β-cells by assessing the evidence both for and against each of them. We also discuss potential mechanisms and defend the view that many of the identified “toxic” effects of nutrient excess, which may also include amino acids, are in fact beneficial adaptive processes. In addition, candidate fuel-excess detoxification pathways are evaluated. Finally, we propose that a more general term should be used for the in vivo situation of overweight-associated type 2 diabetes reflecting both the adaptive and toxic processes to mixed calorigenic nutrients excess: “nutrient-induced metabolic stress” or, in brief, “nutri-stress.”
- Received September 30, 2019.
- Accepted December 20, 2019.
- © 2020 by the American Diabetes Association.