The fat hormone leptin may explain the link between
poorly nourished pregnant women and an increased
risk for obesity in their children, according to
A premature surge of leptin in newborn mice delivered
by underfed mothers resulted in a change to important
brain circuits controlling energy regulation, researchers
at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine
This change appears to contribute to obesity later
in life, they said, since the early rush of leptin
seemed to trigger accelerated weight gain in the
Leptin, a hormone produced by fat, normally decreases
food intake while increasing energy output. Earlier
mouse studies have found that a lack of leptin or
a resistance to its effects is highly associated
with an increased risk for obesity.
"Obesity has increased at an alarming rate in Western
countries and is now a worldwide public health problem.
Genetic and environmental factors, such as a high-calorie
diet, are thought to contribute to the prevalence
of obesity," lead researcher Shingo Fujii said in
a prepared statement.
Targeting this premature leptin surge could yield
new treatments against obesity, the researchers
The study is published in the June issue of Cell