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What is Leptin?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 21, 2024
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Leptin is an example of a 16 Kda protein hormone that is produced in the fat cells of the body. The role of leptin has to do with the regulation of body weight by interaction with the hypothalamus. Here are some examples of how leptin works within the system, and why the hormone is so important to our physical health.

First discovered during the latter part of the 20th century, leptin uses the bloodstream to travel into the brain. From there, leptin is able to work on specific neurons within the hypothalamus to aid in appetite regulation. The stimulation of the hypothalamus by the leptin usually results in sending out signals that let the body know there is currently no hunger, and it is time to refrain from the consumption of food. Because the hormone acts to control the rate and degree of hunger that the body experiences, it plays a valuable role in helping to minimize the physical desire for food, although leptin has no impact on the emotional craving for sweets and other forms of food.

While protein hormones can do their job very well, they do not ensure that individuals will not eat more food than is needed for a healthy balance. Nor is it possible for the chemical reaction of leptin in the system to control the types of foods that are consumed by the individual. From this perspective, persons may choose to ignore the fact that they do not feel hungry, and choose to have a snack or a second helping at a meal. When this happens, the excess food consumption is converted into energy and stored as fat in the body. Over time, the presence of excess fat can actually make the appetite regulation function of leptin hormones more difficult, since the individual may no longer be able to clearly read the biological prompting to cease and desist.

The presence of leptin within the system is a natural way of sensing when there is no need for additional food. By learning to pay attention to the signals emitted from the hypothalamus and choosing to limit our food consumption, most of us would have less of a weight issue and gain a higher standard of physical health. Fortunately, it is possible to retrain our minds to pay attention to these physical promptings that begin with the production of leptin in the system, and change our eating habits to match the demands for energy our bodies provide to us each day.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including All The Science, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By elfi64 — On Mar 23, 2010

I wonder if some substances interfere with the workings of leptin, MSG possibly?

If the signals that we are full are not working as they should, it would be easy to add pounds.

By milagros — On Jan 13, 2009

It seems that using leptin on lab mice helped keep them slim, however, with humans it is more complicated. There is however possibility of using leptin in weight loss. The method of achieving that is being studied.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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