Skip to content

    Brain & Nervous System Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Hormone Leptin Tweaks Hungry Brain

    High-Calorie Foods May Be Especially Tempting When Leptin Is Lacking
    By
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Oct. 29, 2007 -- The fullness hormone leptin may make it easier to resist high-calorie foods.

    That news comes from a new study of people with a rare genetic disorder that causes leptin deficiency and obesity.

    Leptin-related brain areas may be good targets for obesity treatment, the researchers suggest.

    They studied three leptin-deficient adult patients from a Turkish family.

    The patients got brain scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

    During the brain scans, the patients saw photos of high-calorie foods (such as fried chicken, cheeseburgers, and pizza), low-calorie foods (such as strawberries and salad), or brick walls.

    The patients rated their hunger while each picture was displayed.

    They were hungriest when they saw the photos of high-calorie foods. Strawberries and salads didn't rate as highly on the hunger scale.

    The brain scans backed that up, showing increased activity in hunger-related brain areas when the high-calorie foods were displayed.

    Leptin Treatment

    After the initial brain scans, the patients began getting daily leptin shots for two years.

    With leptin treatment, the patients lost weight and were less hungry when they saw images of high-calorie foods during follow-up brain scans.

    The findings may provide clues about hunger, the brain, and leptin -- and those clues could yield new obesity treatments, note the researchers.

    They included graduate student Kate Baicy and Edythe London, PhD, of UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine.

    Their study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, isn't the first of its kind.

    In August, British researchers reported similar results when they showed pictures of food to two teens with leptin deficiency.

    Today on WebMD

    nerve damage
    Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
    senior woman with lost expression
    Know the early warning signs.
     
    woman in art gallery
    Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
    medical marijuana plant
    What is it used for?
     
    senior man
    Article
    boy hits soccer ball with head
    Slideshow
     
    red and white swirl
    Article
    marijuana plant
    ARTICLE
     
    brain illustration stroke
    Slideshow
    nerve damage
    Slideshow
     
    Alzheimers Overview
    Slideshow
    Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix
    Quiz