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Leptin may improve fertility in women with low body fat

Category: Hormones and Metabolism

Leptin testing may reveal why some women who have extremely low body weight become infertile, as a new study from researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has shown that low levels of the hormone may be the reason for disruptions in their menstrual cycle.

Often, women who have extremely low body weight, such as runners, dancers or individuals with eating disorders, stop menstruating. Doctors previously had no solutions for this problem, which can rob women of some of their most fertile years.

However, the research team found that leptin may be the answer. For the study, they examined 20 women who had stopped ovulating due to low body fat. Half of the participants were treated with a synthetic form of the hormone, while the remaining women were given a placebo.

After several weeks of treatment, many of the participants who received the active hormone began ovulating again and their leptin levels returned to normal.

"These findings suggest a role for leptin in improving a condition that results from faulty hormone signaling when levels of body fat are extremely low, and holds promise for future clinical applications," said Jeffery Flier, a Harvard researcher who has studied the hormone for years.

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