Chronic consumption of a Western-type diet, containing both elevated sugar and fat, results in leptin resistance. We hypothesised that fructose, as part of the sugar component of Western-type diets, is one causative ingredient in the development of leptin resistance and that removal of this component will prevent leptin resistance despite high fat (HF) content. We fed rats a sugar-free (SF), 30 % HF (SF/HF) diet or a 40 % high-fructose (HFr), 30 % HF (HFr/HF) diet for 134 d. The HFr/HF diet resulted in impaired anorexic and body-weight responses to both peripherally (0·6 mg/kg, assessed on day 65 of the diet) and centrally (1·5 μg/d, assessed on days 129–134) administered leptin, whereas SF/HF-fed rats were fully leptin responsive. At day 70, half the HFr/HF-fed animals were switched to the SF/HF diet, reversing the leptin resistance (assessed 18 d after the diet switch). The HFr/HF diet elevated serum leptin and reduced adiponectin, and levels were restored abruptly at day 3 after switching to the SF/HF diet. These data demonstrate that a diet containing both HFr and fat leads to leptin resistance, while an isoenergetic SF/HF diet does not. Moreover, removal of fructose from this diet reverses the leptin resistance and the elevated leptin, suggesting a cause-and-effect relationship. These data suggest that fructose is the bioactive component of a HF/high-sugar diet that is essential for the induction of leptin resistance.