Many people believe that weight gain is all about calories and willpower. However, modern obesity research disagrees and scientists are increasingly pointing their fingers at a hormone called leptin. Being resistant to this hormone's effects is now believed to be the leading driver of fat gain. Leptin is a hormone that is produced by the body's fat cells. It is often referred to as the "starvation hormone." Leptin's primary target is in the brain, particularly an area called the hypothalamus. Leptin is supposed to signal the brain that we have enough fat stored, that we don't need to eat, and that we can burn calories at a normal rate. It also has many other functions related to fertility, immunity, brain function and others.
The more fat cells you have, the greater the amount of leptin in your body. Leptin signals your brain to stop eating once you’ve replenished your energy stores. But that only happens when the signaling mechanism is working right. Almost everyone has the leptin they need to function. But things break down when their brains stop receiving leptin’s signals and responding to them accordingly. This is a condition called “leptin resistance.” Your brain struggles to recognize the hormone signaling. So you end up feeling hungry all the time even when you eat more than enough food to fuel your body. Your body is full, but your brain tells you that you’re starving. This leads to all kinds of nasty health problems. Leptin resistance has been linked to obesity, bone problems, and even an increased risk of heart disease.
What Causes Leptin Resistance?
Inflammation: Inflammatory signaling in the hypothalamus is an important cause of leptin resistance in both animals and humans.
Free fatty acids: Having elevated free fatty acids in the bloodstream may increase fat metabolites in the brain and interfere with leptin signalling.
Pretty much all of these factors are increased in obesity... so this may form a vicious cycle where people get fatter and increasingly more leptin resistant over time.
What’s the easiest way to find out if you’re leptin resistant?
1. You Have Food Cravings Constantly
Do you find yourself snacking all the time? Well, you could be leptin resistant. People make healthy eating a priority, and they start setting aside time to prepare three or four meals to get them through the day. But what happens between those meals? What happens when they find themselves slipping out to the refrigerator when they’re supposed to be in bed? Out of control food cravings are common symptoms of leptin resistance.
2. You’re Stressed Out and Sleep Deprived
It seems like everyone’s frazzled and stressed out no matter where you look. Most people underestimate just how dangerous this stuff can be when it comes to controlling their weight and health. It’s very easy to get trapped in this vicious cycle. A combination of high stress and not enough sleep spikes your stress hormone levels. And more cortisol leads to more stress and less sleep.
What can you do?
A key to preventing leptin resistance is reducing diet-induced inflammation. There are several things you can do:
- Avoid processed food: Highly processed foods may compromise the integrity of the gut and drive inflammation.
- Exercise: Physical activity may help to reverse leptin resistance.
- Sleep: Poor sleep has been implicated in problems with leptin.
If you’re struggling to control your weight and stay healthy, leptin resistance could be the the main reason to blame. But you don’t have to put up with it anymore. Making a few diet and lifestyle changes lays a foundation to restore leptin sensitivity, control your weight effortlessly, and improve your health. No prescription pills or miracle cures needed!