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If you’ve been plagued by stubborn weight gain despite all efforts to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen, it may be time to delve into a subject most people don’t want to talk about: hormones. You may not have heard of leptin before, but this hormone plays a major role in your weight loss efforts. This article will clarify leptin’s intricacies and how it impacts your appetite, metabolism, and weight.
What Is Leptin?
It’s a hormone that regulates appetite and metabolism in our bodies by sending signals to our brain to reduce hunger when necessary for survival purposes. In addition to regulating hunger, this hormone also communicates with other parts of the body in order to control body composition and overall metabolic rates. Like anything else in our bodies — we need some amount of leptin if we want to be healthy.
How This Hormone Works
As mentioned above, leptin is the key hormone that regulates hunger in our bodies and reduces our desire to eat. It sends signals to other parts of the body, including the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. The role of the hypothalamus is to control your appetite while the pituitary gland is responsible for releasing or suppressing hormones. Leptin will be able to tell all these parts of your body when you’re full, which means that you will be able to feel much fuller and not want to eat as much food as you normally do.
Leptin signaling helps you determine energy balance. When your leptin levels are too low, it sends a message to your brain telling it that you are hungry and need more food. When your leptin levels are too high, you feel full and stop eating. This tells your body if there is plenty of energy stored in the form of extra pounds or if there isn’t enough. It allows you to adjust both feelings of hunger and feelings of tiredness accordingly.
Leptin levels are directly linked to weight gain. When you gain weight, your fat cells make more leptin and your body resists it. This makes it extremely difficult to lose weight since your body has been programmed to hold onto fat when there is a surplus of leptin in your system.
Your hypothalamus also produces a hormone called corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) that controls the action of cortisol, the stress hormone. When you have chronically high CRH, you will have chronically high stress hormones, which can play havoc with your appetite and metabolism.
When you are stressed, your body goes into fight or flight mode and your metabolic rate slows down. This tells the hypothalamus that you are not getting enough food, which causes it to release the surges of leptin in an attempt to slow down your metabolism to conserve energy. As they say – fight or flight makes fat.
Leptin Hormone Effects
You will have more leptin in your system if you are morbidly obese and less leptin if you are leaner. This explains why overweight people feel hungry much more often than leaner people and find it more difficult to control their cravings. The more fat you have, the more leptin you have… which makes you more hungry, resulting in you eating more, getting fatter and producing more leptin. It’s a vicious cycle that can spiral out of control if left unchecked, resulting in morbid obesity.
Since caloric expenditure and intake are critical factors that directly impact weight loss, it is vital to maintaining leptin levels within the proper physiological range at all times. Have you ever wondered why you feel lethargic and lack vitality on a severely calorie-restricted diet? The reason for this is, when you are on a severe diet, you lose fat, and consequently, your leptin levels drop considerably, resulting in lower energy levels in your body. Once you are in this state, you feel tired and weak.
The body goes into “starvation” mode, and the brain triggers a chain of processes in your body to increase your leptin levels and hold on to as much fat as it can. This is a natural response beyond your influence or control that is aimed at increasing your energy levels. The same applies to cravings that occur due to low leptin levels. The vagus nerve is stimulated, and you start feeling hungry and crave food all the time.
So if low leptin levels will make you feel hungry, then high leptin levels should mean you will not be hungry, right? It depends. Theoretically, this should be the case… but life can be cruel. Overweight people who have high leptin levels usually feel hungry more often and have strong food cravings. That’s because obese people have an unusual response to increased levels of leptin.
Their bodies can sense and respond to low leptin levels but cannot sense and respond to high leptin levels. This means that there is no natural body mechanism to generate a stop signal to overeating no matter how high the leptin levels rise to. This condition is called Leptin resistance and occurs in obese people. This is the worst of both worlds.
What causes leptin resistance
The possibility for leptin resistance to develop is initiated and/or replicated by chronically elevated insulin levels or the presence of inflammatory cells in the hypothalamus. Elevated free fatty acids in the blood may impact leptin signaling by increasing fat metabolites in your brain.
Obesity increases all those risks. This could lead to a downward spiral of gaining weight and becoming increasingly leptin resistant.
Leptin Resistance Treatment
Some scientists considered leptin as a possible obesity treatment, believing it would promote weight loss if obese people were deficient in the hormone. The resulting effects were, however, not so good, once you started to give them to other people
Recent research indicates people with leptin resistance should not be given leptin. Especially since we know more about leptin resistance now, it would make no sense to give leptin to people who have impaired responses to leptin. This means no amount of leptin will override their resistance.
Keep Your Insulin Down
Insulin resistance leads to leptin resistance. The advice for managing insulin levels is to decrease them if possible. Too much sugar is a major trigger for insulin rise. Our diets are too high in sugar. If we cut sugar, we’ll have a better insulin response and lose weight.
It is also recommended to reduce high triglycerides, as it interferes with the leptin’s ability to pass from the blood into the brain. This hormone is then able to reach the brain via a leptin transporter. Insulin resistance is associated with elevated levels of triglycerides. This is one of the tell-tale signs of insulin resistance.
Take enough time to rest
Studies have shown that insufficient sleep can lead to a reduction in leptin levels, thus leading to an increased inclination to overeat.
Take heart. All hope is not lost. You can control this problem and reverse the unwanted effects of leptin and use it to aid in weight loss. It will be a struggle, and you will need to fight your cravings for a while, but with time, your body will develop sensitivity to leptin and regulate your appetite and cravings accordingly.
Your body has an intricate system to help you maintain a healthy weight. If you are struggling to lose weight, be sure to talk to your doctor about any health problems that may be causing your weight problems, like hypothyroidism or leptin resistance. When your body is functioning properly, it will help you stay at a healthy weight and enjoy good health.