The unparalleled global rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes, together with the associated cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, are referred to as the "diabesity pandemic". Changes in lifestyle occurring worldwide, including the increased consumption of high-caloric foods and reduced exercise, are regarded as the main causal factors. Central obesity and insulin resistance have emerged as important linking components. Understanding the aetiology of the cluster of pathologies that leads to the increased risk is instrumental in the development of preventive and therapeutic strategies. Historically, skeletal muscle, adipose tissue and liver were regarded as key insulin target organs involved in insulin-mediated regulation of peripheral carbohydrate, lipid and protein metabolism. The consequences of impaired insulin action in these organs were deemed to explain the functional and structural abnormalities associated with insulin resistance. The discovery of insulin receptors in the central nervous system, the detection of insulin in the cerebrospinal fluid after peripheral insulin administration and the well-documented effects of intracerebroventricularly injected insulin on energy homeostasis, have identified the brain as an important target for insulin action. In addition to its critical role as a peripheral signal integrating the complex network of hypothalamic neuropeptides and neurotransmitters that influence parameters of energy balance, central nervous insulin signalling is also implicated in the regulation of peripheral glucose metabolism. This review summarizes the evidence of insulin action in the brain as part of the multifaceted circuit involved in the central regulation of energy and glucose homeostasis, and discuss the role of impaired central nervous insulin signalling as a pathogenic factor in the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic.
Diamant M. Brain insulin signalling in the regulation of energy balance and peripheral metabolism. Ideggyogy Sz. 2007 March Department of Endocrinology, VU University Medical Center, PO BOX 7057, 1007 MB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.