Guest post today explaining the role of Leptin in satiety and hunger signaling, an then concluding that leptin doesn’t work well as a supplement.
Upon its discovery in 1994, leptin has been branded a number of names including “fat hormone” and “starvation hormone.” With this finding, scientists thought they have made a breakthrough in the treatment of obesity and being overweight.
According to Robert H. Lustig, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, leptin is a starvation hormone. It is a protein synthesized in the fat cells and circulates to the brain via bloodstream. Lustig adds that leptin informs your brain when your body is in starvation mode and causes the urge to have a meal.
How Leptin Affects Weight
Being obese and overweight means that your body has high levels of leptin but your brain is not getting the right signal to stop food cravings. Lustig says that the brain fails to get the right signal due to leptin resistance–similar to insulin resistance in type 2 diabetics. As you get fatter, the leptin levels increase such that your brain can’t recognize any difference. According to Lustig, leptin as a both a part of the hunger system and as part of the reward system. Food becomes more rewarding when your leptin levels are low. When in high levels, the reward system fails to cue you to stop eating if you are leptin-resistant.
Can Leptin Treat Obesity or Help the Overweight?
Richard Atkinson, MD, an endocrinologist, obesity expert and clinical professor at Virginia Commonwealth University says that many scientist have explored leptin as a possible treatment for obesity in people who are leptin-deficient. He adds that there were suggestions that raising levels of leptin in such patients would compel them to stop eating. However, Atkinson adds that it didn’t work since, as patients got fatter, they made more of it. Lustig says that as long as leptin-resistance is still there, no amount of leptin can overcome it. Giving leptin, however, seems to works in only a few, rare cases such as in people who make no leptin at all and thus become obese from simple overeating. When injected with leptin, they stop overeating and lose weight.
Do Leptin Supplements Work?
Atkinson says that leptin is an indigestible protein which doesn’t enter the bloodstream and can be taken in supplement form. He adds that taking it as pill is just like taking a normal protein meal. Atkinson notes that most leptin supplements in the market don’t actually contain leptin. Instead, they have ingredients purported to improve the functioning of leptin or induce feelings of satisfaction. Other health experts say that such leptin supplements are aimed at balancing other hormones such as the thyroid hormone, optimizing health and thus your body responds well to leptin causing the feelings of satiety.
What other Effects does Leptin have?
Atkinson says that although leptin didn’t succeed for use as a weight loss remedy, there are other benefits that scientist continue to explore. Lustig claims that leptin improves the overall health of the heart and bones. Some chronic inflammation occurs as a result of leptin deficiencies in such patients. Following up on Atkinson’s work, recent studies suggest that leptin promotes growth of melanoma, a type of skin cancer. He adds that failure of the brain to recognize leptin in the blood system can lead to infertility in women.
Kathy Mitchell is an American content writer and MA in English literature.