Leptin is a hormone that regulates body weight, metabolism and some reproductive functions. Its primary role is to regulate appetite and energy by alerting the brain that the body either needs food or has eaten enough. The process of increasing levels of leptin must include learning about leptin and understanding that increasing it is not straightforward or simple.
Understand the function of leptin. Leptin is produced by adipose tissue, which stores fat but also produces several important hormones. One of those hormones—leptin—serves as a natural appetite suppressant. When levels of leptin increase, the brain signals satiety so that eating stops and energy increases. When levels of leptin decrease, the result is hunger and a decrease in energy. Since it is made by fat cells, the amount of leptin released into the bloodstream correlates with the lipid content of the cells.
Consult a physician or medical professional. In addition to influencing appetite, leptin is involved in other biochemical processes throughout the body. An imbalance of leptin is implicated in issues such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, systemic inflammation, cardiovascular disease and possibly eating disorders. Levels of leptin should be tested and a multifaceted assessment completed.
Consider leptin resistance. It seems logical that increasing levels of leptin would be a key to weight loss, but in a study released in January 2009, Dr. Umut Ozcan of Children's Hospital Boston stated, "When obese humans took the hormone, they lost weight only temporarily – then rebounded back. Most humans who are obese have leptin resistance." Excess body fat produces chronically high levels of leptin. When the levels of leptin remain high, the body learns to ignore the hormone. As the body becomes resistant, increasing the level of leptin is ineffective.
Research supplements. As of August 2009, there were no approved medications or supplements on the market that specifically increase levels of leptin. There are supplements available that claim to support leptin function with a variety of nutrients. A relatively new extract from the African mango tree, Irvingia gabonensis, is promising. A study published in the March 2009 edition of Lipids in Health and Disease stated that subjects who used Irvingia showed "significant improvements in body weight, body fat, and waist circumference as well as plasma total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, blood glucose, and C-reactive protein."
Watch for new products. Leptin was discovered in 1994. Research into how it works in the brain and the implications for future medications or supplements is ongoing. The use of recombinant leptin as a treatment to increase leptin levels is currently being investigated in numerous clinical trials. Conclusive research ultimately will result in new products and medications.