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  • Researchers have discovered that leptin is associated with the obesity-diabetes connection
  • Leptin is the way that your fat stores speak to your brain to let your brain know how much energy is available and, very importantly, what to do with it
  • Studies have shown that leptin plays significant if not primary roles in heart disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, reproductive disorders, and aging
  • Not much attention is given to leptin’s critical importance because there are no known drugs that regulate its activities and no incentive to spend money to educate doctors about it

Leptin: How Diabetes and Obesity Are Linked

April 02, 2005 | 122,638 views

By Dr. Mercola

Like two peas in a pod, the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemics have joined forces in an attempt to ravage America's health... and it's working, as hundreds of millions of people have been significantly affected by this deadly pair.

But how are these two epidemics intertwined? Popular belief is that if one eats too much sugar, they'll get fat and develop diabetes; and, if they don't get diabetes, it's merely because their bodies are producing enough insulin to keep up with the sugar. However, researchers have discovered evidence that there's more to the obesity-diabetes connection than this classic way of thinking. The missing link? Leptin.

Mice Studies Shed Light on the Subject

Research on mice has suggested that leptin is the key, as it regulates blood sugar through two different brain-body passageways:

  • One: Responsible for controlling appetite and fat storage
  • Two: Responsible for telling the liver what to do with its stored glucose

While it was previously found that disrupting the appetite-controlling passageway leads to obesity (which significantly increases the risk of diabetes), results of the study indicated that it likely takes disruptions in both of leptin's passageways to trigger full-blown diabetes.

Mice used in the study were genetically modified to disable what is known as the leptin-STAT3 cell-signaling passageway that leads from the brain to the body. This s/s strain of mice was still able to produce leptin and the receptor it attaches to when sending STAT3 signals in the body. Further, after eating too much and becoming obese, s/s mice did not develop diabetes; however, other strains of mice that did not produce leptin or have receptors became obese, developed diabetes and died.

Therefore, even when disrupting the leptin-STAT3 signal, the s/s mice were still able to keep their glucose under control, suggesting the likelihood of a brain-liver signaling passageway responsible for regulating blood sugar.

One of the more popular articles on my website is a transcript of a lecture about the importance of insulin by Dr. Ron Rosedale, who is an expert on leptin physiology , a very powerful and influential hormone that has totally changed the way science looks at fat, nutrition, and metabolism. I interviewed him last year for the book he wrote, The Rosedale Diet , and I invited him to give a guest editorial comment on this article.

By Dr. Ron Rosedale:

This study illustrates several very important points about health. We are not a single life, but instead are a republic of cells and our health depends on how accurately the instructions are conveyed to those cells so that they can act in harmony. It further supports the notion that leptin may be "on top of the food chain" in metabolic importance and relevance to disease.

Leptin is the way that your fat stores speak to your brain to let your brain know how much energy is available and, very importantly, what to do with it. Studies have shown that leptin plays significant if not primary roles in heart disease, obesity , diabetes, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, reproductive disorders, and perhaps the rate of aging itself. Many chronic diseases are now linked to excess inflammation such as heart disease and diabetes . High leptin levels are very pro-inflammatory, and leptin also helps to mediate the manufacture of other very potent inflammatory chemicals from fat cells that also play a significant role in the progression of heart disease and diabetes.

Leptin: A Key Player in Your Health

Leptin plays a far more important role in your health than, for instance, cholesterol. However, few doctors are taught to pay attention to it, or even know much about it. Leptin 's critical importance is largely unknown to the medical community because there are no known drugs that regulate its activities and therefore there is no incentive to spend money to educate doctors about leptin 's crucial role in health and disease. The only known way to reestablish proper leptin (and insulin) signaling is via diet and, as such, these can have a more profound effect on your health than any other known modality of medical treatment.

The study also supports prior studies that have shown the brain and liver to be of paramount importance in regulating your blood sugar levels especially in type 2 or insulin resistant diabetes. It had been previously believed that the insulin sensitivity of muscle and fat tissues were the most important factor in determining whether one would become diabetic or not. It should be noted that leptin plays a vital role in regulating your brain 's hypothalamic activity, which in turn regulates much of your "autonomic" functions; those functions that you don' t necessarily think about but which determines much of your life (and health) such as:

  • Body temperature
  • Heart rate
  • Hunger
  • Stress response
  • Fat burning or storage
  • Reproductive behavior and
  • Newly discovered roles in bone growth and blood sugar levels

The study also illustrates the complexity of hormonal orchestration. Especially with very important hormones like insulin and leptin with far ranging effects, a particular cell can be resistant to one effect while the other stays intact. For instance, it had been shown previously that cells may become resistant to the effects of insulin on glucose influx (which may be protective in limiting the amount of glucose entering cells and thus intracellular glycation), while that same cell may not become resistant to the effects of insulin on cellular proliferation that tell cells to multiply, as these are mediated by two separate pathways.

Thus a person with high insulin levels, being insulin resistant in regards to glucose, would still be at a much higher risk of cancer, and this indeed is what happens; high insulin levels are associated with many common forms of cancer. Also, different organ systems become resistant at different rates. Therefore, just taking or artificially raising (by drugs) insulin, and/or leptin, will not correct the problems in the orchestration of the signals, any more than playing the tuba louder will fix mistakes in the written music.

However a strategic diet that emphasizes good fats and avoids blood sugar spikes coupled with targeted supplements to enhance insulin and leptin sensitivity (such as my Rosedale Diet and Dr. Mercola's Total Health Program ), by resensitizing your cell' s ability to hear hormonal messages correctly, will allow your life to be the symphony it was meant to be.

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