27 February 2006

Leptin - the answer to obesity?

Can one use leptin to lose weight? What are the pros and cons? And what do the researchers say? DietDoc takes a closer look at this hot topic.

Leptin has become a buzzword in weight-loss circles. Many people want to know where they can obtain leptin treatment and there is much talk of doctors who inject their patients with leptin to promote weight loss.

Preliminary research
Leptin (Greek: leptos = thin) hormone was discovered about a decade ago.

Secretion of leptin in experimental animals in reaction to weight gain, reduces hunger (thus reducing food intake) and increases energy expenditure (the two goals of most weight loss regimens), which leads to weight loss so that the fat balance of the body is maintained within normal limits (Cena et al 2002).

Quick fix? No
When the general public was introduced to leptin and heard that it can suppress appetite and increase energy expenditure to produce weight loss, they were ecstatic.

Why not?
The reason why leptin supplementation does not work in most human obesity cases, is that only those individuals who suffer from a genetic leptin deficiency (i.e. their genes do not produce any leptin), will react to leptin treatment by losing significant amounts of weight.

A glimmer of hope
Researchers are, however, not daunted by the discovery of 'leptin resistance' and the failure of leptin treatment to date. Many studies continue to be conducted to discover more about this once-promising weight-regulating hormone.

Where do we stand?
We now know that leptin is not a 'magic bullet' or a 'quick fix'. Unless you suffer from genetic leptin deficiency, using leptin will not help you to lose weight.

Can I buy leptin in South Africa?
No. Leptin is not yet commercially available in South Africa. And please keep in mind that, even if you are totally desperate to 'try anything' to lose weight, you are making more than enough leptin already if you are obese and don't need more.

(References: Arbor (2005). Leptin & obesity. Arbor Clinical Nutrition Updates, Vol 240:1-3; Cena H et al (2002). Obesity etiology: role of leptin. Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol, 48(4):303-8; Kennedy A et al (1997). The metabolic significance of leptin in humans: gender-based differences in relationship to adiposity, insulin sensitivity and energy expenditure. J Clin Endocrinol Metab:82(4):1293-300. 303-8; Sinha MK, Caro JF (1998). Clinical aspects of leptin. Vitam Horm,54:1-30 )


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