The impact of cortisol and leptin on obesity

Researchers at NYU Tandon and other schools have analysed the behaviour of two neuroendocrine hormones, leptin and cortisol (a stress hormone), in a cohort of patients with obesity. They used a system theoretic approach that can accurately estimate the internal secretion patterns, timings, amplitudes, number of underlying hormone secretory pulses, infusion, and clearance rates of hormones in patients with obesity by only measuring the 24-hour blood assay of their hormones.

The findings suggest a method for mathematically modelling both leptin and cortisol hormones to characterise how they interact as part of a larger system. Because the relationship between leptin and cortisol hormones is complex, the new results and projections will help researchers understand how these hormones work together to keep the body in a state of homeostasis.


The researchers demonstrated a negative relation between leptin and cortisol secretion, based on a statistical test called the Granger causality test among the patients with obesity. These results indicate that increases in cortisol are prospectively associated with reductions in leptin, suggesting a negative inhibitory relationship in 14 out 18 women living with obesity included in the study. Reduced leptin may result in a decrease in satiety and thereby lead to obesity.


The model can be a crucial contribution toward the potential development of the next generation of agile closed-loop medical systems related to obesity. Such next-generation closed-loop medical systems will identify deviations from homeostasis and suggest necessary interventions benefiting from regular tracking of hormone secretory events and underlying endocrinological system parameters. This way complex conditions such as obesity can be prevented at the root level resulting in an overall increase in the quality of life and reduction in the total national medical expenditure.


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