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‘Feeding and fasting’ hormone can improve insulin action

A researcher has found that adropin, a hormone that regulates whether the body burns fat or sugar during feeding and fasting cycles, can improve insulin action in obese, diabetic mice.

It suggests that the hormone may work as a therapy for type 2 diabetes.

“Adropin is a poorly understood hormone. We first reported its discovery a little over six years ago, but we really didn’t understand what it did. We knew it played a role in maintaining metabolic health, but we didn’t know much beyond that,” explained Andrew Butler, professor of pharmacological and physiological science at Saint Louis University in the US.

When the team measured adropin levels in mice, they were suppressed under fasting conditions and stimulated after feeding, suggesting functions related to the changes in metabolism that occur with feeding and fasting.

“Our work suggests that adropin plays a role in regulating metabolic (energy) homeostasis,” Butler added.

Basically, when you are well fed, your body prefers to use glucose and the release of adropin supports this change by enhancing the use of glucose as a metabolic fuel in muscle.

“However, when you are fasting, your body prefers to use fatty acids. Our observations suggest that a decline in adropin with fasting may be a signal to ‘take the brakes off’ the use of fatty acids,” he added.

Building on that work, the paper reports that low levels of the hormone observed in obesity may contribute to diabetes and the reduced ability of the body to use glucose.

Butler describes the finding as an encouraging lead in the search for new treatments for impaired glucose tolerance.

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The study appeared in the journal Molecular Metabolism


Gao, Su et al. Therapeutic effects of adropin on glucose tolerance and substrate utilization in diet-induced obese mice with insulin resistance, Molecular Metabolism, 2015. DOI:10.1016/j.molmet.2015.01.005

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