People who have higher levels of an appetite-suppressing hormone produced by fat cells may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or dementia than others, U.S. researchers said Tuesday.
They said people in a study who had the highest levels of leptin were far less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or any sort of dementia than those in the study with the lowest levels of leptin, Reuters informs.
According to BBC News, the 12-year-study of 200 volunteers found those with the lowest levels of leptin were more likely to develop the disease than those with the highest.
The JAMA study builds on work that links low leptin levels to the brain plaques found in Alzheimer's patients.
The hope is leptin could eventually be used as both a marker and a treatment.
The hormone leptin is produced by fat cells and tells the brain that the body is full and so reduces appetite. It has long been touted as a potential weapon in treating obesity.
Previous studies have also shown that obesity in middle age can increase the risk of developing dementia.
Dr Wolfgang Lieb, from Boston University, who led the latest study, said: "These findings are consistent with recent experimental data indicating that leptin improves memory function in animals.
"If our findings are confirmed by others, leptin levels in older adults … may open new pathways for possible preventive and therapeutic intervention," he added.
The study compared leptin levels in 785 people with an average age of 72, none of whom had been diagnosed with dementia at the start of the study, Telegraph.co.uk reports.