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Gerald “Jerry” M Reaven: the “father of insulin resistance”

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k1174 (Published 13 March 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k1174
  1. Bob Roehr
  1. Washington, DC
  1. bobroehr{at}aol.com

Gerald “Jerry” M Reaven was a pioneer in insulin research, whose discoveries formed the basis of the concept of metabolic syndrome. He is credited with developing the first quantitative method to measure insulin mediated glucose uptake in humans (1970). He used this tool to establish the importance of insulin resistance in human disease, most notably type 2 diabetes. He also showed how insulin had a role in cardiovascular disease in people who do not have diabetes.

Metabolic syndrome

Reaven first laid out his framework for syndrome X, the role of insulin resistance in human disease, in a lecture in 1988, when he received the Banting medal for scientific achievement, the highest honour awarded by the American Diabetes Association.1 The condition would later become more commonly known as metabolic syndrome.

“There’s not one shred of evidence that insulin resistance causes obesity,” Reaven combatively wrote. “Insulin resistance means that insulin isn’t acting correctly. So if you don’t have enough insulin or if your cells aren’t responding to insulin, you can’t deposit glucose into cells. If anything, you would lose weight.” Furthermore, excessive insulin could damage the …

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