Friday, March 9, 2012

Leptin Resistance May Be Linked to Cancer

Leptin, a protein produced and secreted by fat cells in our body, is known to be important in energy regulation. In fact, leptin plays a role in appetite suppression. But injecting an obese person with leptin does not cause weight loss. Generally, an obese person's body makes enough leptin, but the body does not always appropriately manage the leptin. The person's body may be experiencing something called leptin resistance. And leptin resistance may create another problem: cancer.
When leptin was first discovered in 1994, it was hoped that leptin could be used to treat obesity. It was theorized that people were obese because of a deficit in leptin in the body. Therefore, providing a person with additional leptin would cause a person to stop eating, thus causing weight loss. However, as research has shown, most obese people probably have enough leptin. Their bodies just don't use the leptin properly. People who are obese likely suffer from leptin resistance, a condition similar to insulin resistance, where the body is unable to properly use the available leptin.
And according to scientists in Boston, Massachusetts, leptin that stays in the body too long can negatively affect the immune system, creating a higher risk of cancer. Specifically, the scientists' report indicates that leptin in the body causes an impairment of the natural killer (NK) cell functions. The cells target and attack certain types of cancers.
So getting an obese person's body to appropriately manage leptin will address obesity and cancer. And there may be ways to improve the obese person's body's ability to manage leptin. Working with fat mice, a team at Harvard used two drugs to overcome leptin resistance in the mice.
The two drugs are "4-phenyl butyric acid or PBA, which treats cystic fibrosis, and tauroursodeoxycholic acid or TUDCA, which treats a liver disease." And a past study showed that endurance training might be an effective treatment for leptin resistance. Additional research, of course, is needed to determine what might combat leptin resistance.
At any rate, leptin resistance is an important issue in weight control and apparently in cancer. So coming up with effective treatments will benefit those who need to lose weight, and those obese individuals who could get cancer. Bariatric service providers should keep abreast of research in this area so that they can offer the best leptin resistance treatment.
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