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What Is the Connection between Leptin and Insulin?

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  • Written By: Brandon May
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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Leptin and insulin are two homeostatic hormones crucial for human health, each connected to diseases like diabetes, obesity and cancer. Both leptin and insulin are important for weight regulation by controlling hunger levels, and can be important for preventing diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels. When these hormones are maintained at healthy levels, the body is said to be sensitive to their effects and can use their benefits more effectively. Although drugs have been developed to treat malfunctions in these two hormones, most doctors agree that a strategy that includes healthy eating, exercise and stress reduction is ideal for disease prevention.

In the fields of biology, endocrinology and nutrition there is the study of two important hormones named leptin and insulin. Leptin rises after a meal and suppresses the hunger hormone, telling the body that it does not require any more intake of energy or food. Insulin also rises after a meal, and takes in that energy, which is merely broken down sugar molecules, into the cells of the body to use as a prime energy source. When both hormones are raised excessively, the body can become less sensitive to their effects and the risk of developing diseases like diabetes and obesity increases.

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When levels of leptin remain elevated for long periods of time, cells within the body become less sensitive to its effects. This can effectively turn off the hunger-suppressing hormone and lead to increased hunger which can cause an increased consumption of food. Grehlin, the hunger hormone, is able to stay elevated without being suppressed, leading to uncontrolled cravings for food. Not only does this raise the risk for gaining weight and becoming obese, it also increases the risk of developing diabetes.

After consuming an excess of food, insulin can spike to high levels in an attempt to take in the energy derived from food, mainly in the forms of simple sugars, into the cells. These cells can become insensitive to the effects of insulin over time, leading to an inability to take in glucose. This is called diabetes, and usually results when both leptin and insulin stay elevated for long periods of time and lose their ability to properly signal healthy cells. There is some research suggesting that high elevations of both leptin and insulin can lead to cancer, but more research is needed to find a direct correlation.

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