Hormone Key to Keeping Weight Off

Finding could help people stay slim after dieting, study suggests

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THURSDAY, Dec. 1, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A new study offers insight into why it's easier to lose weight than to keep it off for good.

Body weight is regulated by metabolic, neuroendocrine, and autonomic systems, which work together to restore fat mass in people who've lost weight, the study authors concluded. That's because the body interprets reductions in weight as a deficiency in the hormone leptin.

These mechanisms explain why more than 85 percent of obese people who've lost weight eventually regain those pounds, the Columbia University researchers said.

They tested this theory by giving "replacement" doses of leptin to obese people and to lean people who'd just lost weight. The leptin doses reversed most of the metabolic, neuroendocrine and autonomic changes that occur in an effort to counter reduced body weight.

The study appears in the Dec. 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The findings suggest that drugs that target the leptin signaling pathway may help prevent people from regaining weight after they've lost it, the scientists said.

A study published in November found that in obese rats, the receptor for leptin -- which makes fat burn up -- disappears from fat cells. This means that leptin can't act on the fat cells, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas researchers said.

More information

The Weight-Control Information Network has more about weight loss for life.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Investigation, news release, Dec. 1, 2005

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