Oxytocin in metabolic homeostasis: implications for obesity and diabetes management

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Oxytocin was once understood solely as a neuropeptide with a central role in social bonding, reproduction, parturition, lactation and appetite regulation. Recent evidence indicates that oxytocin enhances glucose uptake and lipid utilization in adipose tissue and skeletal muscle, suggesting that dysfunction of the oxytocin system could underlie the pathogenesis of insulin resistance and dyslipidaemia. Murine studies revealed that deficiencies in oxytocin signalling and oxytocin receptor expression lead to obesity despite normal food intake, motor activity and increased leptin levels. In addition, plasma oxytocin concentration is notably lower in obese individuals with diabetes, which may suggest an involvement of the oxytocin system in the pathogenesis of cardiometabolic disease. More recently, small scale studies demonstrated that intranasal administration of oxytocin was associated with significant weight loss as well as improvements in insulin sensitivity and pancreatic β-cell responsivity in human subjects. The multi-pronged effects of oxytocin signalling on improving peripheral insulin sensitivity, pancreatic function and lipid homeostasis strongly suggest a role for this system as a therapeutic target in obesity and diabetes management. The complexity of obesity aetiology and the pathogenesis of obesity-related metabolic complications underscore the need for a systems approach to better understand the role of oxytocin in metabolic function.

Original languageEnglish
JournalObesity Reviews
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)22-40
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Science - Beta cell function, Glucose metabolism, Insulin sensitivity, Lipid metabolism

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