Leptin And Obesity

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), obesity affects approximately one-third of the adult population in the United States. Obesity is generally defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30, or having 25% or greater fat mass for males or having 30% or greater fat mass for females. Obesity is a risk factor for a host of diseases with potentially negative outcomes including diabetes, stroke, and heart attack.

Much research has been conducted to determine the cause of obesity and potential treatments. One attractive link was discovered in rats in the 1990’s – the link between leptin and obesity.

Leptin is a hormone produced by adipocytes (fat cells). Low leptin levels in the blood signal an increase in feeding and a decrease in energy expenditure. But the relationship between leptin and obesity is not as simple as it seems. Many people who are overweight have abnormally high levels of leptin. Some theorize that overweight and obese individuals have developed an insensitivity to leptin much as diabetics develop and insensitivity to insulin.

When working properly, leptin tends to decrease appetite and serves as a “lipostat,” providing a read on the body’s energy stores. It is thought to inhibit feeding by counteracting the effects of Neuropeptide Y and anandamide, chemicals that stimulate feeding behaviors, while increasing the synthesis of alpha-MSH, an appetite suppressant.

Because leptin and obesity appear to be related, much research has been conducted to determine if leptin or a leptin analogue could be used to treat obesity. Although there have been some positive results in people with a genetic mutation for leptin, results have been less effective in overweight and obese individuals.

Still, the link between leptin and obesity remains an attractive target for future pharmaceutical therapies. Only time will tell if the relationship between leptin and obesity can be exploited to the benefit of overweight and obese individuals.

Related Articles

Obesity in Adults

The Obesity Gene

Treatments for Obesity

Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

Find a Treatment Facility Near You

Click on a state below to find eating disorder treatment options that could be right for you.

The information provided on EatingDisorders.com is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes and we encourage all visitors to see a licensed physician if they believe that they have an eating disorder. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of EatingDisorders.com nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.

Copyright © 2008-2017 EatingDisorders.com.
Company Information

© 2017 EatingDisorders.com. All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of EatingDisorders.com's terms of service and privacy policy. The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.