A new study says that delivering the hormone leptin directly to the brain through gene therapy aids weight loss without much side effect of bone loss.
Rapid or significant weight loss through dieting can trigger bone loss. Loss of bone density, in turn, can lead to increased susceptibility to bone fractures in older adults, which can have a debilitating effect on quality of life, the study pointed out.
"What we are trying to determine is whether there is a way to lose excessive weight while preserving bone density," said one of the researchers Urszula Iwaniec, associate professor at Oregon State University in the US.
In the study, rats which received leptin had a weight reduction of about 20 percent, but they did not have any bone loss. The rats that lost weight were able to maintain that weight loss. They also had large reductions of abdominal fat, also known as "bad" fat, which is known to contribute to weight-related health problems.
Leptin is required for normal skeletal growth and maintenance. The hormone also plays a significant role in the body's ability to maintain weight, telling your brain how much fat you have and if fat stores are sufficient.
But people appear to develop leptin resistance with weight gain, and the brain no longer receives accurate messages, Iwaniec said. "Using leptin at the level of the hypothalamus to control weight is where, at some point, we believe we're going to be able to control weight gain," she said.
The findings were published in the Journal of Endocrinology