Elevated leptin: consequence or cause of obesity?

Front Biosci. 2007 May 1;12:3531-44. doi: 10.2741/2332.


Leptin is an adipocyte-derived, satiety-regulating hormone that acts within the hypothalamus and other brain sites. Obese humans and animals are largely resistant to central actions of leptin. Rising leptin levels associated with progressing obesity are generally regarded as simply a consequence rather than a causative factor in the leptin resistance and obesity. Several lines of evidence suggest otherwise. Chronic overexpression of central leptin induces a leptin resistance that mimics many of the characteristics associated with diet-induced or adult-onset obesity including reduced leptin receptors, diminished signaling, and impaired responsiveness to exogenous leptin. Moreover, these animals have increased susceptibility to diet-induced obesity. New data with a leptin antagonist demonstrate that blockade of leptin receptors also exaggerates diet-induced obesity. These findings suggest an important role for elevated leptin in the development of leptin resistance and obesity, especially in today's society with an overabundance of readily available high caloric food. Once leptin resistance takes hold, each subsequent exposure to high-density food faces diminished counter-regulatory responses, leading to exacerbated weight gain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diet
  • Drug Resistance
  • Humans
  • Leptin / blood*
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Leptin