New Link Discovered Between Appetite Hormone and Depression

Leptin may become tool for fighting depression

(RxWiki News) Our bodies make a hormone called leptin that regulates our appetite. It may be that this hormone could also be useful in regulating depression.

A new study has shown that women who have higher levels of leptin - an appetite-control hormone - have fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. Leptin may have antidepressant properties in women, says the study’s lead author, Elizabeth Lawson, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"Leptin could become a new treatment for depression."

Fat cells produce leptin to let us know when we're full. The hormone is naturally lower in thin women and higher in obese women, Lawson explains.

She said low leptin levels have been shown to be linked to higher incidences of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa - where there is low body weight and low body fat. The hormone is also lower in normal weight women with a condition known as hypothalamic amenorrhea that causes menstruation to stop.

It's not known whether or not low leptin levels contribute to the development of mood disorders in women, according to Lawson.

The study involved 64 women, including 15 with anorexia nervosa, 12 with hypothalamic amenorrhea, 20 with normal weights and 17 women who were either overweight or obese.

Participants were asked questions to determine symptoms of anxiety and depression. Researchers measured leptin levels in the blood and assessed each participant's BMI, body mass index.

The higher leptin levels were seen in women with decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression. This association had nothing to do with the woman's BMI.

That means, according to Lawson, that the leptin accounted for the fewer symptoms, not lower weight.

Lawson concluded that additional research is needed to learn to learn the hormone's potential usefulness in treating depression.

Findings from this study were presented The Endocrine Society’s 93rd Annual Meeting in Boston.

Review Date: 
June 8, 2011