The human body remains to be one of the most fascinating systems to date. It is made up of complex components that join together to see to it that it functions with ease. So many processes happen within it at once, some which you are conscience of and others that you have no idea are even happening. For instance, have you ever wondered what causes the difference in body weight among individuals? Well, probably you bear the false idea that weight loss and gain are all about calories and self-discipline. That eating too much and failing to exercise leads to more and more fats stored in your body. But no! this is disapproved by modern scientists and they instead bring up the issue of leptin and leptin resistance.
What is leptin and how does it work?
Leptin is a hormone produced by the fat cells in the adipose tissue to help control body weight. It is also referred to as the satiety hormone or starvation hormone’. The hormone sends a message to the brain to an area called the hypothalamus, informing it that there is enough fat stored and therefore there is no need to eat and that the calories will be burnt at a normal rate. Note that leptin does not interfere with food intake but only acts to change food intake and control the use of energy over time. Simply, it can be said that leptin helps maintain healthy weight when in its normal levels.
Leptin travels in blood in free from and is bound to proteins. The levels of leptin differ greatly and not linearly with fat mass. Between midnight and early morning, the levels of leptin in the blood are high, maybe to suppress appetite during the night. In human beings, sometimes the leptin hormone disconnects from the rigorous task of communicating nutritional standing between the brain and body and stops to correlate with body fat levels. Such instances include;
- After a short period of fasting say 1 to 3 days. The leptin level reduces even if changes in fat mass are not seen.
- During starvation the leptin plays the important role of helping one adapt to the situation.
- When one is perceived to be under emotional stress, the leptin level heightens.
- Increased testosterone and estrogen levels reduce the level of leptin hormone.
- Oddly enough, leptin levels are increased in cases of obesity.
- Physical exercises chronically reduce leptin levels.
- Increased insulin and dexamethasone also increase the amount of leptin in the bloodstream.
- Obese patients with obstructive sleep apnea have high leptin levels which reduce after being administered continuous positive airway pressure. For patients that are not obese, undisturbed sleep that is 8-12 hours long can boost leptin to normal levels.
When there is too much leptin
The function of leptin is sometimes inhibited. In cases where there excess leptin in the blood, its sensitivity is limited as too much of leptin seems to hinder effective flow to the brain. This leads to an increase in appetite and cravings, together with decreased metabolism. These occurrences are greatly associated with obesity and researchers deem it as the cause for the condition.
When leptin is in insufficient amounts
On the other hand, when the body produces a small amount of the hormone, the body remains oblivious of when it in the satisfied’ or hungry’ state. The burning and storing of fats is also interfered with leading to weight related problems, mostly obesity. The condition in which the body secretes too little leptin is known as congenital leptin deficiency. Though the case or little or no leptin is rare, it still happens and it is treated by leptin injections that result in dramatic weight loss. Leptin deficiency can also lead to poor functioning of the immune system and delayed puberty.
Earlier it was mentioned that having too much leptin in your bloodstream could render the signals ineffective thus leading to obesity. But why is this so while the concept behind it is that more fat cells lead to increased production of leptin and thus more signals to your brain to stop you from eating and storing up fat?
What happens in such situations is that the brain develops resistance to all the leptin lying around in your bloodstream and tricks the body into thinking that it is starving even when there is more than the required amount of energy stored. This is considered a biological irregularity. The leptin signal becomes ineffective and the brain can no longer recognize it. This then leads to changes in behavior and physiology in order to regain the fat the brain assumes is missing. Associated effects of this irregularity include decreased fertility and accelerated aging.
Clearly, this suggests that the cause of weight gain is not because one eats more and exercises less but instead the cause is a hormonal flaw.
Can leptin resistance be fixed?
The solution to leptin resistance is quite complicated as it involves reversing the endocrine system. It takes more than controlling your calories and self-discipline. The difficulty in fixing the condition possibly explains why most diets offer little or no results. Even after successful weight loss, some people lapse back and gain weight as the problem has more to do with leptin. On successfully losing weight, the amounts of fat reduce leading to a decline in leptin levels but the brain still fails to reverse its leptin resistance. In this case you still get to experience increased appetite and craving and your body continues to burn a small amount of calories. Basically, your brain constantly thinks the body is starving regardless of your dieting efforts and therefore it will always be initiating mechanisms to gain fat.
This explains why majority of the people that have tried dieting often find it easy at the beginning but with time hunger and cravings set in and there is also declined wish for exercise. The brain is aggressively defending the high mass of fats through powerful biochemical forces that drive you to put on weight even after losing it.
At the meantime there is no proven technique that can be used to reverse leptin resistance. However, those with the condition are advised to fight off their carvings. This is extremely difficult but it can be done by substituting sugary and high-carb foods with those that have much lower energy content.
What causes leptin resistance?
There is no definite cause of leptin resistance but there are two hypotheses regarding the condition. One is that leptin available in the bloodstream fails to reach the target that controls appetite for some reason. The other is that the receptors that leptin binds to are no longer functioning properly and thus cannot signal the cells to respond to the hormone. Factors believed to lead to any of the two situations include:
- Eating more than the body requires (over-eating).
- Too much exercise, especially when one already has hormonal defects.
- Consuming too much grain and lectin.
- Not getting adequate sleep
- Having high levels of insulin.
- High levels of stress.
- Taking in too much simple carbs.
- Consuming fructose particularly in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Few tips to help those with leptin resistance
There is no definite way to solve leptin resistance but these few tips may help improve your situation slightly. The tips can also act as proactive measures to help prevent leptin resistance.
Begin your day with plain oatmeal and peanut butter. Research shows that oatmeal is among the most filling and satisfying foods. This can help reduce what you eat for the rest of the day. Peanut on the other hand is rich in protein and has been observed to lessen the brain signals for cravings.
Take supplements to help improve leptin sensitivity. One such supplement is Irvingia which is made from African mango extracts. Other than boosting leptin sensitivity the extract also improves body weight and hips and waist circumference. You should however seek advice from a medical expert before taking any supplements. Also make sure to stop taking them if you experience side effects like nausea and sleeplessness.
Have a 12-hour gap between your last meal and first meal. This means that if you take dinner at 7pm, you should wait until 7am the next morning to have your breakfast. Also try and create a 4-hour gap between your meals and put a lot of effort to avoid snacking. Keep in mind that when you are constantly snacking, your liver is consistently working and thus the hormones are active throughout.
Optimizing your sleep will also help control your weight. Try to be in bed by 10pm and ensure that you had your last meal of the day at least 4 hours earlier.
Do not rush to physical workouts. This just acts as additional stress to the body that is already leptin resistant. Instead, gradually introduce simple routines like walking and swimming and avoid high intensity workouts like jogging.
Make sure that you get rid of toxins to relieve your body of stress. Keep off from processed food and cosmetic products with a high percentage of chemical ingredients. Most processed foods may interfere with reliability of the gut and cause inflammation.
Consume soluble fibers as they help perk up gut health and may also offer protection against obesity. Also keep your triglycerides on the low as having high blood triglycerides prevents transportation of leptin to the brain. To lower your triglycerides, reduce your intake of carbohydrates.
Take in more Omega 3 and reduce the intake of Omega 6 in order to lessen inflammation and boost healthy leptin levels. Omega 3s includes fish, chia seeds and grass-fed meats while omega 6 includes conventional meats and vegetable oils.
Symptoms of Leptin Resistance
Common signs that you are likely to observe in a leptin resistant person are:
- They will often complain of fatigue.
- Their liver tends to be fatty.
- They suffer from insomnia.
- Will have high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol and high triglycerides.
- They may develop thyroid problems and allergies.
- Will often be highly moody and irritable.
- They gain lots of weight within a short time often resulting to being overweight.
- They suffer from stress and will constantly develop cravings, especially in the night.
Note that these symptoms differ from one person to another and therefore cannot be used to draw a solid conclusion. To find if for sure one has developed leptin resistance, it is wise to consult a doctor who after running some tests will determine the level of your leptin hormone and the consequences it has on your health, if any. The most common symptom however is that of excess weight gain which is prevalent amongst people with the condition.
Are there foods that can prevent or fix leptin resistance?
As earlier stated, fixing leptin resistance means reversing the endocrine system. Leptin is made in the adipose tissues of human being. For these reason it cannot be obtained from any foods that we take. So far no foods have been identified to bear the potential to do this. The much people with the condition can do is rely on tips to ease their situation slightly. As for preventing leptin resistance, there is also no food that can out rightly keep off the condition. However, as the tips above indicate, regulating some foods may spare you the risk of leptin resistance. Generally, by adopting a healthy lifestyle, the risk of developing complications with leptin levels is lessened.
You now understand that obesity does not attack those that are either greedy or lazy. Its root cause is strongly biochemical driven by some factors in the environment. So next time you see someone suffering from obesity do not think of them as gluttons. The causes of obesity may be diverse but leptin resistance also plays a role. It causes one to gain unnecessary weight which becomes almost impossible to keep off. This problem can be attributed to changes in our diets that not only result to obesity but other chronic illnesses as well.
With an understanding of leptin, the master hormone for body fat regulation, now you know the path to take to avoid any problems associated with leptin and leptin resistance.