This is how leptin affects our body weight

Leptin has long been considered a beacon of hope in the fight against  obesity . Because the hormone curbs appetite. However, many overweight people do not have a deficiency, but rather a high level of leptin in their blood. How can this be explained? Learn more about how the effects of leptin and body weight are related here.

What is leptin?

Leptin is a hormone made primarily by the body’s fat cells. It plays a role in the feeling of hunger and has therefore been the subject of research for some time.

The hormone leptin is  a natural appetite suppressant  and is mainly produced by fat cells (adipocytes). But leptin is also produced in the bone marrow, skeletal muscles, gastric mucosa, breast skin cells and parts of the brain. If the fat cells are well filled, they send out leptin and convey the signal “We are full!”.

The precise regulation of food intake has not yet been conclusively clarified. The conditions under which leptin leads to weight gain or weight loss are also unclear.

The Effects of Leptin

Leptin exerts its effect on two different docking sites (receptors) in the hypothalamus. This part of the diencephalon is an important switching center for the involuntary nervous system (vegetative nervous system) and produces various hormones.

After its connection with one type of receptor, leptin leads to the release of other appetite-suppressing hormones or, after connection to the other type of receptor, to an inhibition of the release of appetite-stimulating hormones.

So it ends up curbing our appetite. Through this mechanism, leptin can be seen as an opponent of the hormone  ghrelin  , which promotes the feeling of hunger.

metabolism of leptin

Furthermore, leptin should be in direct interaction with the sugar regulator hormone  insulin  . It has been shown that leptin can also stimulate glucose utilization (sugar utilization) in diabetic patients independently of insulin.

Therefore, leptin is traded as a potential alternative to insulin therapy in people with type 1  diabetes  mellitus. There would be no side effects of insulin. Clinical studies on this topic should bring reliable findings. 1

In addition, leptin leads to an increase in blood pressure, an increase in heart rate and the stimulation of heat development in the cells.

Another effect of a high leptin level in the blood is said to be the braking of the urge to move. If you have a lot of leptin hormones in your blood, you also have less desire to exercise.

The role of leptin in weight loss

For a while, leptin has been touted as a potential appetite suppressant in the treatment of  obesity  (obesity). However, it was found that the majority of overweight patients have very high levels of the hormone in their blood.

The cause is probably  leptin resistance,  which means that leptin has no effect on its receptors. Although the leptin level in the blood is high, the brain does not convey a feeling of satiety. Rather, the feeling of hunger persists and food intake continues. According to the current state of knowledge, neuronal causes could be responsible for leptin resistance.

Some researchers believe they have found the  cause of obesity  in leptin resistance . However, the exact metabolic processes have not yet been fully researched and, according to current knowledge, the development of obesity depends on many factors.

Diet and Leptin

Certain  foods  – especially foods high in sugar and fat, such as fried and caramelized foods – cause  inflammation  in the brain and leptin cannot work. There is currently no solid evidence, but eating behavior seems to be a cause of leptin resistance.

In addition to leptin resistance, there are also genetic diseases that can lead to morbid obesity. Mutations in genes that  produce proteins  for the leptin pathway disrupt their function. The effect is similar to leptin resistance – those affected have a disturbed feeling of satiety. However, such genetic defects are rarely the reason for obesity.

Leptin as a drug

Leptin also exists in the form of leptin analogs. These are artificially produced and mimic the effect of leptin in the body. Leptin is prescribed for people with congenital fat cell deficiency (lipodystrophy) because they cannot produce it themselves. The drug has only been approved in the USA for this indication since 2014.

In the European Union, approval was granted in 2018 under “extraordinary circumstances”. This means that the benefits of the drug outweigh those affected by lipodystrophy and, due to the rarity of the disease, access to sufficient study data was not possible. The European Medicines Agency is constantly examining incoming data on the effects and side effects of the drug.

The administration is carried out by the doctor treating you as an injection into the subcutaneous fatty tissue.  The preparation is not available in the form of capsules,  globules or tablets.

Effect against obesity not proven

Due to the effects described, leptin is often traded as a silver bullet against obesity. The idea is that taking leptin analogs increases leptin levels and boosts fat burning.

However, the manufacturer himself points out that weight loss through leptin has not been proven. Instead, serious side effects can occur. It is therefore strongly discouraged to use a leptin preparation without prior consultation with a doctor specializing in metabolic diseases (endocrinologist).

The previous scientific findings also speak against the fact that a mere increase in the leptin level automatically leads to a faster feeling of satiety and thus to weight reduction.

Side Effects of Leptin

If leptin is supplied from the outside, serious side effects can occur. The body can form defense proteins (antibodies) against the hormone, so-called anti-drug antibodies. This means that the leptin produced by the fat cells can no longer work – the leptin level decreases even further instead of increasing.

Furthermore, autoimmune reactions against the liver and kidneys have been described, which, if they progress, can lead to failure of these organs.

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