Leptin is a hormone that tells the brain when a person is full and has eaten enough. It is present in everyone and is derived from fat cells in our bodies. However, a new study suggests that a decrease in leptin may be linked to depression. “Animal data suggest that leptin may reduce anxiety and improve depression. Our study in women suggests that leptin may indeed have antidepressant qualities,” said the study’s lead author, Elizabeth Lawson, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. According to the study, there is more leptin in obese women and less leptin present in thin women. Lawson said that the women with lower levels of leptin displayed increased symptoms of depression and anxiety. Women who suffer from anorexia nervosa, which results in very low body fat and body weight, and women who have stopped menstruating, a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea, even though they are within normal weight ranges, can often have very low levels of leptin.
Lawson said, “It is unknown whether low leptin levels contribute to the development of mood disorders in these women.” Lawson and her team of researchers examined the link between leptin and depression and anxiety in a study involving 64 women. They chose women with anorexia, hypothalamic amenorrhea, obesity and a group who were healthy. The participants were questioned to determine if they had any symptoms of anxiety or depression. The researchers also looked at how much leptin was present in their blood, and evaluated each woman’s body-mass index.
They discovered that the women who displayed the fewest symptoms of depression and anxiety also had the highest levels of leptin, regardless of their body-mass index. The researchers believe that leptin can offset depressive symptoms and that this does not have a relationship to decreased weight. “Further research administering leptin to humans will be important in understanding whether this hormone has a potential role in the treatment of depression,” said Lawson.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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