The Connection Between Leptin Levels and Eating Disorders


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Recently the Division of Endocrinology at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine performed a study on the connection between Leptin levels and eating disorders. Leptin is a peptide hormone neurotransmitter produced by fat cells and involved in the regulation of appetite. It signals your brain when you’ve eaten enough and stimulates you to burn more calories. In order to span a full range of human body weights for their investigation, the analysts, examined serum leptin levels in anorexic, bulimic, obese, and control individuals.

Compared to the analysis generated from non-anorexic patients, patients with anorexia nervosa were found to have much higher serum leptin levels values. In effect, having leptin levels so high is contributory to a blunted physiologic response to being underweight and consequently builds resistance to dietary treatment. Simply put, they have too many of these leptin hormones being sent to the brain that are saying, “You are full.” Therefore, anorexic patients repel the need to consume enough of the nutrients their body realistically needs to function properly.

On the other hand, what this study found in bulimic patients when compared to non-bulimic patients is the opposite effect. Bulimic patients were found to have much lower leptin levels. This deficiency of leptin hormones is usually caused by a form of Leptin resistance and this contributes to the patients food-craving behavior. The Leptin resistance found in most bulimic patients comes from a chemical surge located in the pleasure center of our brain. This chemical surge overrules leptin’s messages that are trying to tell the bulimic patient “your tank is full.” So in other words, there is a chemical battle going on inside a bulimic patients brain. The leptin hormones are trying to tell the defense to kick in and protect them against overeating but at the same time, in a much louder voice, the pleasure center of the brain is saying, “No! Pass those cookies this-a-way.”

When examining leptin levels in most obese people, it was found that they actually have high leptin levels. However, their bodies usually cannot respond to these leptin hormones because they have another form of leptin resistance. Instead of leptin messages being rejected and overruled by the pleasure center of the brain (like the type of resistance indicated in most bulimic patients), obese patients cells’ have completely stopped accepting leptin messages all together. Therefore, they do not receive any message from their leptin hormones that would be telling them to stop eating.

Essentially, regulating your leptin levels and defeating leptin resistance plays a large role in overcoming an eating disorder. Foods that are high in sugar or additives such as high fructose corn syrup and MSG should be avoided because these ingredients excited the pleasure center of your brain making it much more difficult to respond to your leptin hormones. So basically, the more foods you consume with these ingredients, the louder the voice saying, “Pass those cookies this-a-way,” will become and the softer the voice saying, “You are full!” will become. Also, your cells become more sensitive and responsive to leptin when you exercise and build muscle!

Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2011, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible.

Please credit ‘© 2011, Dr J Renae Norton. //’


The National Center for Biotechnology Information – Leptin in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: importance of assay technique and method of interpretation (//


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