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Exp Gerontol. 2009 Jan-Feb;44(1-2):20-5. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2008.05.005. Epub 2008 May 20.

Changes in the neuroendocrine control of energy homeostasis by adiposity signals during aging.

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Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid-CSIC, Nicolás Cabrera 1, Campus de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


Energy balance in mammals is modulated by peripheral signals that inform the brain about the magnitude of fat stores, the amount of food in the gastrointestinal tract, and the level of nutrients such as glucose in the circulation. Among these, insulin and leptin are considered adiposity signals involved in the long-term maintenance of fat stores. Here we review the mechanisms of action of leptin and insulin in the hypothalamus and how these mechanisms are altered during aging in rat models. Aged rats are characterized by increased fat mass, central leptin and insulin resistance, and hyperleptinemia. Leptin resistance is manifested by its failure to inhibit food intake, deplete fat stores, down regulate its own expression in adipose tissue, and increase energy expenditure. Moreover, leptin and insulin signaling are decreased in hypothalamus from aged rats. Calorie restriction and fasting studies provide controversial data on the cause-effect interrelationship between increased adiposity and development of central leptin resistance. Although in the absence of obesity leptin resistance seems to be a characteristic of aged animals, adiposity could either reinforce it or cause an early onset of this resistance. More studies are necessary to clarify the role of the hypothalamus in the development of age-associated obesity and insulin resistance.

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