Leptin is a protein produced by fatty tissue that plays an important role in controlling food intake and energy expenditure, as well as the regulation of reproductive function. The former two functions are important in the development of obesity, since body weight increases when food intake exceeds energy expenditure (i.e. when we consume more energy from food than we work off from physical activity). It is the role of leptin to detect energy store levels in the body and to relay this information to the central nervous system (CNS). When fat stores and hence leptin levels are high, the brain acts to decrease food intake and to increase energy expenditure. Studies have found that laboratory mice without circulating leptin develop both obesity and infertility, and that administration of leptin later on leads to the restoration of normal body weight and fertility. Leptin therefore plays an important role in the relationship between obesity and fertility.
Although leptin is present in large amounts in obesity, excessive fatty tissue is maintained, along with a decrease in fertility. It is believed that obese individuals have some sort of resistance to leptin that cannot be overcome by high leptin levels, making it difficult for obese individuals to lose weight.
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