I’ve written at pretty great length about hormones in this space—particularly as they relate to obesity and metabolic health. And I’m not just talking about sex hormones, like testosterone and estrogen.
Names that were once considered obscure are now permanent fixtures in the modern health vernacular. From leptin, ghrelin, and adiponectin, which govern hunger signals… to cortisol and adrenaline, which ramp up your stress response.
These have quickly emerged as some of the latest targets of “diabesity” research and drug development. And for good reason. Because if even one of these potent hormones is out of balance, it can—and will—throw your whole body off kilter.
Needless to say, the more we know about the human body’s “behind the scenes” players, the better. And that’s why I wanted to share the news about a recently discovered hormone with you today.
It’s called adropin. And while this may be your first time hearing about it, it’s not likely to be the last.
Nature’s secret weapon against diabesity
News about adropin first broke back in 2012, when scientists from Florida’s Scripps Research Institute made a potentially game-changing discovery.
When they deleted the gene for adropin production in mice, either fully or partially, the animals suffered from insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, and greater tendencies toward obesity. All of which I’m sure you recognize as the lethal trifecta behind type 2 diabetes.
But that’s not all. The researchers also found that, simply by injecting the deficient mice with synthetic adropin, they could reverse insulin resistance completely.1
Now, if this were the only evidence pointing to adropin’s potential role in diabetes prevention, it would be tough to muster up too much excitement. (Results in mice are just that… results in mice.) But as it turns out, clinical findings mirrored these results nearly to a tee.
Another 2012 study of 85 women and 45 men showed that lower adropin levels have strong ties to obesity. They were also a common feature in subjects with the hallmark symptoms of metabolic syndrome—like a dangerous lipid profile, higher blood pressure, and a wider waist.
Researchers also found that, among normal weight subjects, women had lower adropin levels than men. While obesity impacted adropin levels more severely in men than in women. Even stranger was the fact gastric bypass surgery significantly boosted adropin levels in morbidly obese patients…but only within the first six months. By a year after the surgery, subjects’ adropin levels returned to their baseline levels.
Obviously, the connection between adropin and obesity remains a little fuzzy. But one thing so far is crystal clear—low adropin and metabolic risk go hand in hand, regardless of gender. And unsurprisingly, levels drop dramatically after the age of 30.2
Adropin balances energy by burning sugar
A few years later, research out of Saint Louis University Medical Center used animal models to identify exactly how adropin works. Experiments on mice showed that levels of the hormone were lower during times of fasting, while eating triggered adropin release—pointing to a direct role in metabolism and energy balance.3
More specifically, adropin appears to encourage the use of sugar as a prime energy source. So it’s not hard to see how low levels of the hormone could contribute to impairments in blood sugar metabolism.
In fact, low adropin appears to lay a fast track to diabetes. Treatment with the hormone, on the other hand, has the opposite effect—boosting glucose tolerance, and ramping up insulin receptivity.4
Researchers are calling adropin a promising target for emerging diabetes therapies. And no doubt, the drug companies are already on top of it. We all know how much Big Pharma loves their chronic-disease cash cows.
But there’s no adropin-boosting pill as of yet. And as far as I’m concerned, the industry can take its sweet time developing one. Because, the fact is, there are other ways to get the benefits of adropin. And they don’t involve an expensive prescription.
Boost adropin by ditching carbs in favor of butter
Research reported from the team at the University of St. Louis just this past summer arrived at yet another critical (and, in my opinion, quite predictable) conclusion.
The scientists found that high carb intake suppresses blood levels of adropin. And increased intake of dietary fat was linked to more abundant circulating adropin.5
But here’s the real kicker: They also found that subjects with low levels of adropin had higher levels of both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Which means that, along with predicting diabetes risk, adropin may also be a key marker of heart health.
I’d just love to hear what all the proponents of the so called “heart-healthy” low-fat diet have to say about this.
Especially since it isn’t the only research linking higher adropin levels with a fat-rich diet. In fact, another recent study delivered the same results.
Like the study I mentioned above, this controlled dietary experiment found that women with a high fat intake—particularly saturated fat—also benefit from a greater abundance of adropin.
Carbohydrates, meanwhile, had the opposite effect.6
It seems pretty clear that a diet low in carbs and rich in fat boosts your levels of this critical diabetes-preventing hormone. And I can’t say I’m surprised. But I suspect it will take the American Diabetes Association a good, long time to abandon their dated dietary recommendations and get on board.
So it’s a good thing you know better than to follow the low-fat, carb-friendly dogma that still plagues popular nutrition guidelines.
Stick with my plan—rich in protein, fresh produce, and healthy fats—and you won’t need to wait for Big Pharma’s next “magic bullet” to keep your own adropin levels in check. Because all the help you need will be right there on your dinner plate.
- Ganesh Kumar K, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Jul;20(7):1394-402.
- Butler AA. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Oct;97(10):3783-91.
- Gao S, et al. Diabetes. 2014 Oct;63(10):3242-52.
- Gao S, et al. Mol Metab. 2015 Jan 17;4(4):310-24.
- Stevens JR, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Aug;24(8):1731-40.
- St-Onge MP, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014 Apr;22(4):1056-63.