Plasma calcitonin gene-related peptide is increased prior to obesity, and sensory nerve desensitization by capsaicin improves oral glucose tolerance in obese Zucker rats

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Objective: It has earlier been demonstrated that capsaicin-induced desensitization improves insulin sensitivity in normal rats. However, whether increased capsaicin-sensitive nerve activity precedes the onset of insulin resistance in diet-induced obesity - and therefore might be involved in the pathophysiology - is not known. Further, it is of relevance to investigate whether capsaicin desensitization improves glycaemic control even in obese individuals and we therefore chose the obese Zucker rats to test this. Design and methods: Plasma levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP; a marker of sensory nerve activity) was assessed in 8-week-old Zucker rats. To investigate whether capsaicin desensitization (100 mg/kg at 9 weeks of age) would also ameliorate glycaemia in this non-diabetic model, we assessed oral glucose tolerance at 7 weeks after capsaicin. Results: It was found that plasma CGRP levels were elevated in obese Zucker rats prior to the onset of obesity (16.1 +/- 3.4 pmol/l in pre-obese Zucker rats vs 6.9 +/- 1.1 pmol/l in lean littermates; P = 0.015) despite similar body weights. Furthermore, capsaicin desensitization reduced both fasting blood glucose (4.3 +/- 0.2 mmol/l vs 5.1 +/- 0.2 mmol/l in controls; P = 0.050) as well as the mean blood glucose level during an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) (6.8 +/- 0.3 mmol/l vs 8.6 +/- 0.5 mmol/l in control obese rats; P = 0.024) whereas the plasma insulin levels during the OGTT were unchanged. However this did not lead to an improvement in insulin resistance or to a reduction of tissue triglyceride accumulation in muscle or liver. Conclusion: We concluded that capsaicin-induced sensory nerve desensitization improves glucose tolerance in Zucker rats. Since, in this study, plasma CGRP levels, a marker of sensory nerve activity, were increased in the pre-obese rats, our data support the hypothesis that increased activity of sensory nerves precedes the development of obesity and insulin resistance in Zucker rats.


  • DX Gram
  • AJ Hansen
  • M Wilken
  • T Elm
  • O Svendsen
  • RD Carr
  • Bo Ahrén
  • CL Brand
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Endocrinology and Diabetes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-969
JournalEuropean Journal of Endocrinology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Publication categoryResearch