Have you noticed that diet books are no longer the bestsellers they once were? This is because 85% of the people who go on diets gain back all the weight they work so hard to lose. Why does this happen and is it inevitable?

A new study offers insight into why it’s easier to lose weight than to keep it off for good. Body weight is regulated by our metabolism. The body interprets weight loss as a deficiency in the hormone leptin, which controls weight gain.

Researchers gave “replacement” doses of leptin to obese people and to lean people who’d just lost weight. These leptin doses reversed most of the metabolic changes that took place during their diets. These scientists think that giving recent dieters leptin may help prevent them from regaining the weight they?ve lost, since leptin controls appetite, meaning it?s what makes fat burn up. The hormone leptin is made in the fat tissue, and so when a person loses weight, their leptin production falls off. This leads to an increase in appetite and then to dieters regaining the weight they’ve struggled to lose.

Injections of leptin have been used to help obese people with a deficiency of leptin lose weight, but this has no effect on obese people who have normal leptin levels. It may eventually be possible to develop a new drug to keep weight off that work by targeting the way the body monitors leptin levels. This would be the perfect diet pill.

Leptin kept our ancestors from losing too much of their valuable fat when food was scarce. Lead researcher Dr Michael Rosenbaum told the BBC News website that historically it made sense our ancestors to defend their fat reserves, as they were often subjected to periods when food was scarce.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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