A new study reveals women suffering from extremely low body fat whether due to strenuous exercise, eating disorders, or other factors may benefit from treatment with the appetite-and-weight-regulation hormone leptin. The study also indicates leptin may be useful in treating some instances of infertility.
Leptin is produced in fat tissue and secreted into the blood stream, where it then travels to the brain and plays a role in establishing how much energy is available to the body for important functions like reproduction, metabolism, and the formation of bone. Extremely thin women produce less leptin and often have a negative energy balance as a result, leading the body to revert back to a prepubescent state.
The study was conducted among 14 competitive female athletes with about 40-percent less body fat than the average women. Eight of the women received the hormone, while the others served as controls. All of the women in the study had ceased menstruating on average about five years prior to the study due to low body weight. After just three months of treatment, women receiving twice-daily leptin supplements resumed menstrual periods and their ovaries were once again functioning normally. The hormone also significantly improved bone density markers in the blood. However no change was seen in the control group.
However researchers say that more study is required to confirm these findings and to establish the best dose of leptin for women suffering from infertility and other problems related to low body weight.