The effects of high fat diets on the blood-brain barrier transport of leptin: failure or adaptation?

Physiol Behav. 2006 Jun 30;88(3):244-8. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.05.037. Epub 2006 Jun 16.


Leptin is a pluripotent regulatory protein secreted by fat and exerts many effects through the CNS. Interpretation of the characteristics by which it crosses the blood-brain barrier (BBB) supports the view that leptin most potently signals the brain at serum levels well below those associated with the current definition of ideal body weight. This fits with the perspective that low serum levels of leptin are a signal to brain that a sufficient store of calories are available for the organism to expend energy for efforts unrelated to acquisition of calories. This would explain why low serum levels of leptin are permissive in many of the non-feeding actions of leptin, such as enhancing CNS-mediated immune function, memory, bone growth, reproduction, breathing, and neurogenesis. Triglycerides inhibit the transport of leptin across the BBB and so could be key in the onset of the peripheral leptin resistance, which is a hallmark of obesity. These results explain the paradox of why obesity should induce resistance to an anorectic: hypertriglyceridemia also occurs with starvation and we postulate that triglyceride-induced resistance to leptin transport across the BBB initially evolved to limit the signal of an anorectic to the brain during starvation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism*
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Humans
  • Leptin / metabolism*


  • Dietary Fats
  • Leptin