Leptin and ghrelin hormones work together in harmony to keep your weight balanced. When leptin resistance occurs, this balance can be broken. Find out how you can prevent leptin resistance and lose weight.
What is the leptin hormone?
Leptin also called the “satiety hormone”, is responsible for making your stomach feel full. In other words, it controls your appetite.
Leptin is a hormone that is secreted from the body’s largest endocrine organ, adipose tissue, or simply “body fat”.
What is leptin’s function?
When secreted by your fat cells, leptin targets the hypothalamus area in your brain. It communicates with your brain to tell whether or not you have enough fat stored. If there’s enough fat stored, you feel full and don’t feel the urge to eat again.
Leptin’s function is to regulate long-term energy balance and suppress excess food intake, by means of this communication. So there’s an important relationship between leptin production and weight control. (1)
The hormone that works in the opposite way to leptin is ghrelin. This is the “hunger hormone” that tells you your body has used up its energy resources and it’s time to eat. Ghrelin and leptin should work in harmony to keep you at a healthy weight.
One of the simplest ways of keeping leptin and ghrelin levels balanced is by doing intermittent fasting. Over time, as your body gets used to fasting, you secrete leptin faster and ghrelin levels decrease. This way, you feel fuller with smaller portions.
This amazing natural dieting mechanism prevents us from overeating. But sometimes leptin’s function may be broken, as a result of several things, leading to a disorder called “leptin resistance”.
Leptin Resistance and Obesity
As mentioned above, leptin is secreted from your body fat. This means that if someone has a lot of body fat, they secrete more leptin than someone with less body fat.
In other words, people with obesity should naturally limit their food intake because of their greater leptin production. But sometimes the signaling mechanism between their brain and leptin production system may be broken.
Even though such a person has a lot of leptin in their system, the brain doesn’t acknowledge it, and thinks their body is starving.
So the person can’t feel satiated and carries on eating even though their body already has a lot of energy already. This is called leptin resistance.
Leptin resistance is said to be one of the biggest contributory factors to obesity. (2)
Leptin Resistance Symptoms
- Being overweight and not being able to lose weight by exercising or dieting
- Craving junk food all the time
- Having visceral belly fat
- Having high levels of inflammation (3)
If you’re experiencing one or more of the above symptoms, consult a medical professional.
Several blood tests can define your leptin levels to diagnose whether you have leptin resistance or not.
You should follow your doctor’s advice for treatment if you have leptin resistance.
What causes leptin resistance?
While there are many factors that contribute to developing leptin resistance, the main causal factors are:
- Eating too much junk food (too much sugary, salty, processed food, and simple carbs)
- Lack of sleep
- A stressful and sedentary lifestyle
- Lack of vitamin D
- Yo-yo dieting
What is the leptin diet?
While not being very different from other weight loss methods, you should follow these 5 main rules if you decide to follow a leptin diet. (4)
- Add 20 to 30 grams of protein for breakfast (eggs, cottage cheese, etc.)
- Eat a maximum of 3 meals a day. Have a gap of 5-6 hours between them. Don’t snack between meals.
- Stop eating 3 hours before your bedtime.
- Reduce your carb intake, but don’t completely eliminate whole carbs.
- Finish your meals before you start feeling full.
As with most nutrition programs, try to eat fresh and organic food. Avoid junk food that contains too much sugar, salt, or chemical preservatives.
Leptin Rich Foods to Fight Obesity
If you happen to have low levels of the leptin hormone, then you should adjust your diet accordingly.
Triglycerides, a type of fat, impact the way leptin works in the body. Your leptin levels can increase if you reduce your triglycerides with the right nutritional choices.
Foods that boost leptin production will lower your triglycerides and fight obesity:
- Vegetables: kale, broccoli, carrots, beets
- Legumes: beans, peas, lentils
- Leafy greens: spinach, arugula, lettuce
- Berries: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
- Healthy oils: olive oil, flaxseed oil, nuts
- Seafood: fish and oysters
- Whole grains: brown rice, buckwheat, rye, oats, quinoa
To sum up
The balance of leptin and ghrelin hormones is vital for appetite and weight control. If you’d like to feel full with smaller portions and prevent late-night cravings, give intermittent fasting a try.
Switching to a Mediterranean diet with lots of fibrous vegetables, low GI fruits, healthy oils, and proteins rather than a typical high GI Western diet with processed foods may help prevent leptin resistance.
If you think you may have leptin resistance, seek medical help first. Leptin resistance is an important factor in obesity, and can therefore cause obesity-related health problems. After diagnosis, it should be treated according to professional medical advice.