Scientists are busy making a baby formula that will suppress appetites, signal the brain to avoid overeating and possibly make a dent in adults and children who are overweight. But what is the impact of adding hormones to infants’ diet and how could it possibly be adequately tested for safety when non-consenting babies are the participants? That is part of the controversy as well as whether or not this special formula will even work and have long lasting effects on those who are given it.
Leptin is the hormone additive that is the focus of the baby formula and is thought to change the brain and body so that you don’t eat more calories than are needed. It would only be an effective way to prevent obesity if given during infancy when the brain is being “hard wired” so to speak.
In studies done with animals, leptin worked to prevent over eating throughout the remainder of their lifetime so the benefits seem to be long term. Whether or not the same would be true for humans’ is the unknown. More research is being done to figure out what positive and possible negative impact baby formula with added leptin would do.
The recent study performed on rats can be found in the American Journal of Physiology and was led by a Professor from the University of Buckingham. The study concludes that when given leptin in the beginning of life, the rats remained thin and free of diabetes as adults, even when fed a high in fat diet. Another part of their findings included that when pregnant rats were given leptin their offspring remained a healthy weight for their lifespan. This makes researchers wonder if future weight gain can be determined before birth in people as well.
Leptin is naturally produced during our lifespan and is produced in breast milk which may be one reason why breastfed babies tend to be thinner as children and adults as opposed to those who were formula fed. So one argument for adding the hormone to baby bottles is that it’s just putting something that would normally be present had they been fed breast milk as nature intended.
Past studies regarding leptin and adults has proven unsuccessful and the thought is that it’s too late at that point. The unknown is whether or not human babies would respond similar to how the rats did. It’s exciting and yet a bit scary to think that adding something to the diet at such an early age can impact the brain.
Obesity and excessive weight gain are rather complex and are impacted by many factors including physical, environmental, emotional, psychological aspects of the person’s life. What is known is that calorie intake is related to weight gain or loss. How the body and brain processes this for different individuals is what makes it confusing.