Infertility - Are You Too Thin To Get Pregnant?
Today’s almost fanatical obsession with low fat, both consumption in the diet and on the body, could be the reason so many women are infertile. If you have extremely low body fat, which has caused your body to stop menstruating or made your periods irregular, you could usefully learn about the hormone leptin.
A landmark study has shown that it can regulate periods. Leptin (from the Greek Leptos, meaning thin), is a protein hormone with important regulatory effects in body weight, metabolism and reproduction. It appears to have important functions with regard to diabetes, and it has been found that insulin stimulates leptin production in adipose (fat) tissue.
After production in the fat tissues it is secreted into the blood stream, where it travels to the brain and helps establish how much energy there is for important bodily functions, such as the formation of bone, and reproduction. Extremely thin women, whether this is the result of illness, eating disorders, starvation or excessive exercise, produce substantially less leptin and often have a negative energy balance because of this. The body then reverts to the state it was prior to puberty.
Working out regularly, and obsessively avoiding fat can lead to irregular menses and infertility. It stands to reason, if you do not have fat cells, or at least, not enough of them, you could well be deficient in this hormone. It has long been known that starvation effects the reproductive functioning of the female. It has been estimated that at least 22% of body weight should be fat in order to maintain healthy ovulatory cycles.
Endocrinologist Corrine Welt, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, is leading the research team. "We think that leptin is actually the signal that tells your brain that there is enough body fat or enough energy available to reproduce," she says.
The doctor seems to be right. "When we started giving them leptin, suddenly they started to grow eggs. They started to have ovulation again, and they started to menstruate," Dr. Welt says.
Much more research needs to be done on this hormone, but it could lead the way to successful pregnancy for couples for whom infertility is a problem.
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