TUESDAY, April 13, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- A new study in mice suggests that the hormones leptin and insulin work together in the brain to control blood sugar levels and, in a surprise to researchers, female fertility.
The findings also appear to suggest that diabetes and obesity aren't always necessarily connected.
"Many people, and even many physicians, think you develop diabetes that is solely secondary to obesity," study senior author Dr. Joel Elmquist, professor of internal medicine and pharmacology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said in a news release. "Our findings indicate that is not necessarily the case, at least in mice. We can make the animals very diabetic without obesity, suggesting that there may be a circuit or path of resistance to these signals in the brain that helps explain the powerful anti-diabetic actions of leptin."
Also, Elmquist said, the research suggests that people don't need to be obese in order to develop type 2 diabetes.
Elmquist said the findings provide new insight into how brain cells regulate glucose and insulin. Scientists think certain brain cells play a major role in prompting weight loss by suppressing appetite.
In addition to their findings about metabolism, the researchers found that female mice with the most brain cells that couldn't process the hormones had trouble breeding and produced smaller litters.
The study findings were released online April 7 in the journal Cell Metabolism.
The National Institutes of Health has more on type 2 diabetes.