Leptin is a hormone that exists in every one of us that controls appetite. It literally tells the brain when it has taken in enough food to supply energy and when we should stop eating. Recent discoveries however, have alerted physicians that it is possible for someone to be leptin-deficient, meaning little or no hunger hormones present and that the lack of this common hormone can lead to some terrible consequences for the body.
What a Lack of Leptin Can Mean
Several cousins from the same family in Turkey were recently discovered to be completely lacking the hormone leptin through a rare genetic quirk. Without that hormone being produced in their bodies, their brains went into full out survival mode and acted as if they were actually starving. These men never knew when they were full, resulting in them having inexorable appetites. Each of them weighed well over 300 pounds.
To combat this, the men were flown from Turkey to the University of California to undergo clinical trials involving leptin hormones. While there, they received daily injections of the hormone, while their bodies were closely monitored to record the effect of introducing leptin to a body that could not produce its own. They were not put on any diet restrictions, just the hormone injections. The results were amazing. They began to slowly lose weight and it is predicted that over the course of a year, they should lose what may be half of the weight they had put on over the last few years, bringing them down to a healthy weight at last.
Does This Mean that Leptin Can Be Used to Foster Weight Loss?
In this instance, Leptin injections and the results it achieved were admittedly made possible because these three men were incapable of producing this hormone on their own. Without it, they gained weight at a rapid pace. Replacing it immediately caused the weight to drop. Another discovery made during these trials showed that the leptin hormone had a secondary effect on the body that many were previously unaware of: it actually stimulates physical activity once it had reached a particular level in their systems. With the proper level of leptin in their bodies, they exercised more and were generally more active than they had been previously.
However, the complete absence of leptin in the body is extremely rare and what is not completely known at the moment is what leptin hormone injections could do for other patients who are morbidly obese or even slightly overweight despite producing leptin in the body. There is no hard and fast evidence as yet on the effect of having too much leptin in the body.
Clinical trials are continuing to discover links between leptin levels in the body and obesity and whether an increased level of that hormone would promote weight loss without any adverse effects. So far, it is looking positive and it is hoped that in the future doctors will be able to ramp up weight loss through hormone injections of leptin or perhaps develop a more powerful version of it synthetically.