Does Hunger Hormone Protect Against Depression?

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 John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Andre


    June 10th, 2011 at 5:47 AM

    Well,it could be that leptin is found in good quantities if you eat well.And eating well could be why persons are less prone to depression? After all,food does have an effect on all that.

  • lamar


    June 10th, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    So I can see how the question about being overweight and being depressed could now be connected. Less leptin leads to overeating and can also signal depression too. Treating the lower leptin levels looks as if that could be the key to managing many different mental health and perhaps medical and physical issues as well.

  • Jenny Ledd

    Jenny Ledd

    June 10th, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    A lot of people find themselves suffering through a more serious bout of depression. A depression treatment program be needed to include expert help. When consulting using a qualified healthcare professional, a depression medicament program that includes treat and therapy or medications is likely to be recommended.

  • Eliza


    June 12th, 2011 at 4:57 AM

    So I guess that the new saying now has to be that you can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much leptin? hahaha

  • Patrick Macey

    Patrick Macey

    June 15th, 2011 at 1:38 AM

    “According to the study, there is more leptin in obese women and less leptin present in thin women.”

    Does anyone else think it weird that the obese women have more of the hormone that tells you you’ve had enough to eat than thin women? You would think it would be the opposite way around.

  • Jamie Voight

    Jamie Voight

    June 16th, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    It makes sense, slightly. You eat, you feel good about it. You’re hungry, you’re annoyed and miserable until you’ve gotten something to eat. Of course now that people have read this study, they are going to draw their own conclusions about how obesity’s linked to depression.

  • Phil Armour

    Phil Armour

    June 16th, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    @Jamie: Too late for them to be ahead of the pack. It nets over 7 million results on Google with numbers dating back to 2003, so it’s already been done to death repeatedly.

    Studies have linked depression to almost everything now in their findings. I doubt there are any surprises left.

  • Jeanette Goody

    Jeanette Goody

    June 18th, 2011 at 8:35 PM

    Well, finally we’re getting somewhere in sorting out depression with a method that attacks it at its source. It’s honestly about time we started coming up with these solutions and I for one applaud the researchers and appreciate their hard work. Every day we inch closer to a permanent cure for depression and I hold onto that hope.

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