Obese men respond to cognitive but not to catabolic brain insulin signaling

Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Feb;32(2):275-82. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803722. Epub 2007 Sep 11.


Context and objective: Insulin acts in the brain to reduce food intake and body weight and is considered a major adiposity signal in energy homeostasis. In normal-weight men, intranasal insulin administration reduces body fat and improves declarative memory. The present experiments aimed to generalize these findings to obese patients, with a view to evaluate the therapeutic potential of the compound.

Design, subjects and measurements: Insulin and placebo, respectively, were intranasally administered four times a day (amounting to 160 IU day(-1)) over 8 weeks to two groups of 15 obese men each.

Results: Contrasting with the catabolic effects in normal-weight men, insulin treatment did not induce any significant reduction of body weight (P>0.50) and body fat (P>0.44) in the obese subjects. However, in accordance with the effects in normal-weight men, declarative memory and mood were improved (P<0.05) and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity as assessed by circulating ACTH (P<0.01) and cortisol levels (P<0.04) was reduced.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that in obese men, intranasal insulin is functionally active in the central nervous system but fails to affect the neuronal networks critically involved in body weight regulation. We conclude that obesity in men is associated with central nervous resistance to the adiposity signal insulin. This defect likely contributes to the persistence of obesity in spite of elevated levels of circulating insulin in obese patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects*
  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Body Size
  • Body Weight
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Insulin / administration & dosage
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin