Leptin And Dementia

Those who have high levels of a fat-cell produced hormone with appetite-suppressing qualities have a lower risk for developing Alzheimer's disease or dementia, say U.S. researchers. A recent study showed that participants with the highest values for leptin had a far lower risk for the development of Alzheimer's or any other type of dementia than those participants at the lower end of the leptin scale.

Brain Loss

The researchers found that those with higher leptin levels also had greater brain volume by the time the study was concluded. Alzheimer's disease causes a loss of brain volume, so that those afflicted lose cognitive and other brain functions. More than 26 million people all over the world suffer from this mind-robbing condition.

"What we found is that people with higher leptin levels at baseline had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia," said Boston University's Dr. Wolfgang Lieb, lead author of the study which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Natural Therapy

Leptin was discovered in 1995 and was touted as a possible natural therapy for weight loss. When mice with low levels of leptin were given a dose of the hormone, they lost weight. But in humans, the benefits were transitory. In short, leptin as a weight-loss treatment is a bust.

Lieb decided to have his team analyze data from the huge health study known as the Framingham Heart Study, which was begun in 1948 in Framingham, Massachusetts. Lieb is affiliated with this study. The research team examined the relationship between blood leptin levels and Alzheimer's and dementia.

Researchers looked at 785 persons who began with no symptoms of dementia in 1990 through 1994. Almost 200 of them had undergone brain scans to measure brain volume. After 8 years had elapsed, and in some cases, as many as 15 years, 111 people were found to have developed dementia with 89 of them diagnosed as having Alzheimer's disease.

Memory Center

Lieb's team discovered that those with the lowest levels of leptin in 1990 had a 25% risk for developing Alzheimer's, while those with higher values for leptin had only a 6% risk for developing the disease. Of those with the highest levels of leptin, those who had brain scans were found to have greater volume in the main memory section of the brain, the hippocampus, when compared to those who had lower levels of leptin.

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