Leptin resistance is increasingly recognized as a significant contributing factor in weight gain and obesity.
Read on to learn about the role of leptin resistance in weight gain and what YOU can do to fix it for healthy body weight.
Leptin and Leptin Resistance
Leptin is a satiety hormone that helps regulate appetite, food intake, and fat storage. Produced by your fat cells, leptin tells your brain via leptin signaling how much fat you're carrying.
High leptin levels mean you have plenty of stored fat, while low levels mean your fat stores are low.
The hypothalamus in the brain -- the area that regulates appetite and metabolism -- receives these signals, adjusting appetite and metabolism accordingly.
For example, if fat stores are high, the hypothalamus knows to shut off hunger and increase metabolism so that you can burn that fat.
Conversely, it knows to turn on your hunger and slow your metabolism if they are low. In this way, leptin regulates your body fat levels.
But if the brain doesn't recognize leptin signaling, it thinks you're starving even though you're carrying excess body fat. In response, it increases hunger and reduces metabolism to promote weight gain.
This condition is called leptin resistance, and research suggests it may promote insulin resistance, further increasing the risk for obesity. (1)
Being leptin resistant may partially explain why obese individuals are often hungry and have difficulty controlling food intake. These biological signals frequently make sustainable weight loss impossible.
Indeed, research suggests leptin resistance to be one of the leading biological causes of obesity. (2)
Is Raising Leptin Levels the Answer?
No. Unfortunately, increasing leptin levels will not fix this problem. After all, because leptin is produced by the fat cells, obese individuals often have a surplus of this hormone circulating in their bloodstreams.
Instead, it is necessary to increase leptin sensitivity so that the hypothalamus can recognize its signals and regulate bodyweight properly.
Leptin Resistance Symptoms
Symptoms of leptin resistance include:
Being overweight (Most overweight individuals are leptin resistant.)
Almost constant hunger
Extreme cravings for refined carbs and sugars
High levels of inflammation
Inability to lose weight
High leptin levels (Hyperleptinemia), which you can determine through lab testing.
How is Leptin Resistance Diagnosed?
There is no set standard for diagnosing leptin resistance. Instead, doctors generally make an educated guess based on whether you have several symptoms listed above.
But if you request it, your doctor can order a "serum leptin test," which determines the total leptin concentrations in your bloodstream.
What Causes Leptin Resistance?
The main factors that cause leptin resistance are poor quality diet, chronic stress, and sleep deprivation. Let's discuss each one.
Poor Quality Diet
Indulging in a predominately low-quality diet is one of the main contributing factors for leptin resistance. A low-quality diet includes:
Refined carbohydrates are digested quickly, resulting in glucose being dumped into your bloodstream. This causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels, which helps to dysregulate hormonal regulation of body weight and hunger, aka leptin resistance.
Sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), is terrible for leptin levels. However, because HFCS is a cheaper alternative to table sugar, manufacturers use it as the primary sweetener for their products.
They even put it in processed foods that are not obviously sweet to make it more desirable.
Unfortunately, research shows that dietary sugar elevates plasma triglycerides that impairs leptin transport across the blood-brain barrier, leading to leptin resistance. (3)
Saturated fats, aka triglycerides, have been shown to induce leptin resistance even if circulating leptin is low. In other words, high leptin levels are not what triggers resistance in this scenario -- saturated fats are!
As with sugar, saturated fat consumption can block leptin at the blood-brain barrier and lead to leptin resistance and obesity. But the same effect was not observed when saturated fats were replaced with polyunsaturated fats. (4, 5)
If inflammation of the hypothalamus occurs, it can prevent receipt of leptin signals, eventually leading to leptin resistance.
The causes of hypothalamic inflammation are varied but can include poor-quality diet, sleep deprivation, and chronic stress.
Studies suggest that lack of sleep reduces leptin levels, thereby increasing hunger and the tendency to overeat.
In addition, the increase of cortisol that occurs with sleep deprivation triggers cravings for refined carbs and sugar that, if indulged in regularly, can cause leptin resistance. In addition, your metabolism slows because it thinks you're not getting enough food.
Like sleep deprivation, chronic stress increases cortisol levels, promoting hunger and cravings for refined carbs and sugar. Increased appetite can make it impossible to avoid overeating these unhealthy snacks, and if eaten too often, they can lead to leptin resistance.
How Do You Fix Leptin Resistance?
Below are three great ways to reverse leptin resistance and lose weight.
4 Ways Reverse Leptin Resistance
Fortunately, there are ways to reverse leptin resistance, lose weight, and feel great. Here are just a few of them.
Adjust Your Diet
Enjoying a leptin-friendly diet is one of the best ways to heal your metabolic system and experience successful weight loss.
Eat Less of These Foods
To promote leptin sensitivity, try to eat fewer:
Heavily processed foods, like cookies, white bread, pastries, etc. These foods are highly inflammatory, leading to gut dysbiosis, systemic inflammation, and leptin resistance.
Starchy carbs. Studies show that consuming cards with a high glycemic load, aka starchy/refined carbs, may lead to leptin resistance. (7)
Foods with added sugar. Most heavily processed food contains added sugar, so avoiding them will automatically cut your sugar intake. You'll also want to avoid natural sugars, like honey, fruits, etc. Though natural, these sugars have the same effect on leptin and your metabolic system as granulated sugar.
Eat More of These Foods
Fiber. Research suggests that increasing your fiber intake may decrease the "concentration of leptin," potentially helping reverse leptin resistance. (8)
Protein. Dietary protein's effect on lepton could be one of the reasons protein is the most satiating macronutrient. According to a review of studies, researchers noted: "It seems that higher protein intake increases satiety and enhances the leptin concentrations in CNS as well as elevates leptin sensitivity which tends to be weight maintenance." (9)
Healthy fats. Studies suggest that consuming unsaturated fats may positively affect circulating leptin and increase leptin sensitivity. (10)
Get More Sleep
Studies suggest that lack of sleep leads to decreased leptin levels, making you feel hungry and that leptin levels depend on sleep duration. (11) Therefore, if you're sleep-deprived, getting more sleep may help regulate your leptin levels.
Try to get at least eight hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, you may want to make some lifestyle adjustments conducive to a restful sleep.
These adjustments may include following a set sleep schedule, practicing relaxation techniques before bedtime, keeping your bedroom cool, and more.
Stress is a part of life, but you don't have to let it control or overwhelm you. All you need to do is take steps to de-stress daily.
Take a walk around the block a few times a day
Play fetch with your dog.
Perform progressive muscle relaxation exercises
Start a new hobby
Practice yoga or tai chi
Perform deep breathing exercises whenever stressed
Listen to soothing music
Take SANE Aamia™ Daily
Research shows that calorie consumption alone does not determine weight gain or inability to lose weight. Instead, hormones like leptin regulate your weight.
So, optimizing hormonal performance is one of the best things you can do to increase leptin sensitivity and manage your weight.
And Aamia™ does just that!
SANE Aamia™ is a proprietary clinical formulation designed to lower your set-point weight by helping to restore your body’s natural ability to burn fat and keep it off by optimizing your metabolism, hormones, and neurotransmitters while reducing cravings and dysregulation in the appetite and weight centers of your brain.
The result is effortless, enjoyable weight management. So what are you waiting for?