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What does a high or low leptin mean?

By June 7, 2016 - 8:02am
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Hello Kanchan,

Welcome to EmpowHER and thank you for your question.

Leptin is a hormone made by the adipose cells. It helps regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger. Leptin interacts with areas of the brain that control hunger and behavior and signals that the body has had enough to eat.

Studies have shown that an absence of leptin in the body or leptin resistance can lead to uncontrolled eating and weight gain. So, a low leptin level is linked to overeating and obesity.

The problem is that overweight people have large amounts of leptin, but their brains aren't getting the important signal to stop eating. This phenomenon is called ‘leptin resistance. Leptin levels can keep going higher as people get fatter.

Leptin acts like a traffic cop in your brain. When levels are adequate the speed limit is raised and your metabolism can run faster. When leptin levels are too low your brain thinks there is a famine and your metabolic rate is set to hibernation mode so that you don’t perish from malnutrition.

The leptin test is not ordered routinely. It is most likely to be ordered on an obese child, especially if there is a family history of early-onset obesity. It may sometimes be ordered on an obese person who has symptoms of frequent, persistent hunger to detect a leptin deficiency or excess.

On occasion, the test may be used along with other tests, such as a lipid profile, thyroid panel, glucose, insulin, and/or A1c, to evaluate the health status of an obese person and to detect underlying conditions that may be contributing to or complicating their condition.

In the obese, decreased leptin levels may indicate some degree of deficiency, while increased concentrations are thought to be associated with resistance to the effects of leptin. Most obese people will have increased levels, but about 10% may have some degree of leptin deficiency.

Very rarely, significantly decreased leptin levels may indicate an inherited leptin deficiency linked to severe obesity.

Leptin secretion follows a circadian pattern, meaning that the concentration in blood will vary throughout a 24-hour time period, higher at night than during the day.

Kanchan, I hope this was the information you were looking for.


June 7, 2016 - 8:58am
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