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Sex differences in central insulin action: Effect of intranasal insulin on neural food cue reactivity in adults with normal weight and overweight

Lore Wagner ● Ralf Veit ● Louise Fritsche ● Hans-Ulrich Häring ● Andreas Fritsche ● Andreas L Birkenfeld ● Martin Heni ● Hubert Preissl ● Stephanie Kullmann

RESULTS: Food cue reactivity in the amygdala showed higher BOLD activation in response to central insulin compared to placebo. Furthermore, women with overweight and obesity and men of normal weight showed higher BOLD neural food cue responsivity to central insulin compared to placebo. Higher central insulin action in the insular cortex was associated with better peripheral insulin sensitivity and higher cognitive control. Moreover, central insulin action in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) revealed significant sex differences. In response to central insulin compared to placebo, men showed lower DLPFC BOLD activity, whereas women showed higher DLPFC activity in response to highly desired food cues. On behavioral level, central insulin action significantly reduced hunger, whereas the desire to eat, especially for low caloric food cues was significantly higher with central insulin than with placebo.

CONCLUSIONS: Obesity and sex influenced the central insulin-mediated neural BOLD activity to visual food cues in brain regions implicated in reward and cognitive control. These findings show that central insulin action regulates food response differentially in men and women, which may have consequences for metabolism and eating behavior.

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