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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

More Leptin May Mean Less Alzheimer's

Study Shows High Levels of the Hormone Linked to Lower Rates of Alzheimer's Disease
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Leptin Replacement Therapy

Treatment with leptin has been shown in recent animal studies to improve memory performance even after the onset of Alzheimer's-like dementia.

But Seshadri says it remains to be seen if leptin replacement therapy would benefit humans with Alzheimer's disease or help protect against the disease.

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded close to $3 million for a small pilot study of leptin replacement therapy in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

J. Wesson Ashford, MD, PhD, who is the principal investigator, says about 45 patients will be recruited for the study. A major goal will be to determine if leptin treatment reduces concentrations of a protein called tau that is elevated in the spinal fluid of Alzheimer's patients.

Ashford is with the Stanford/VA Aging Clinical Research Center in Stanford, Calif.

"Tau is a fundamental protein that helps transport along the fibers of the brain," he tells WebMD. "If leptin lowers tau concentrations in the spinal fluid, that tells us something is going on. That's why we only need 45 patients to show an effect."

Maria C. Carrillo, PhD, of the Alzheimer's Association, calls the leptin research promising. But she warns that clinical treatments based on the research are years away, if they happen at all.

She says the study reinforces the growing recognition that lifestyle-related health issues like obesity and insulin resistance increase the risk for late-life dementia.
Obese people in the study tended to have lower leptin levels.

"This gives us more information about how maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and avoiding diseases like diabetes all come together to help protect our brains as we age," she says.

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