Let’s start with the question – What is Leptin?
Leptin is a hormone produced by our body’s fat cells. Leptin travels through our blood stream and signals to the brain that we are full. It makes sense then that if we have more body fat, we will produce more leptin. Higher leptin production causes us to feel fuller faster. In theory, this prevents people from becoming obese or over weight. The same mechanism applies inversely. When we have less body fat, we have fewer fat cells and produce less leptin. In theory, this helps prevent people from being underweight because they can eat more before they feel full. Really leptin is a safety mechanism in place to help regulate weight loss and weight gain.
Body fat goes up > more fat cells > more leptin > decreased appetite
Body fat decreases > less fat cells > leptin decreases > increased appetite
What is Leptin resistance?
Now we know how Leptin should work in a healthy individual. Unfortunately, for some people this safety mechanism has developed a glitch and does not work as it should. An Individual can actually become resistant to Leptin, meaning their brain no longer receives the signal from fat cells saying “Hey you have enough energy stored down here- you can stop eating and storing.” Our cells are still producing and releasing leptin but our brain doesn’t recognize it; our brain is essentially starving and will continue to burn less and store more because it believes it is in a starvation state. Without leptin our body doesn’t have a way to know if we have excess fat stores, and if there is one thing that our body has evolutionarily perfected it is how to store fat. In this sense, leptin resistance is very similar to the insulin resistance we see in individuals with type II diabetes where the pancreas is creating large amounts of insulin but our cells don’t respond properly to it.
Fat cells > Leptin produced and released > brain doesn’t see leptin > continue to eat and store > more fat cells > leptin produced and released > brain doesn’t see > more fat cells
What can we do?
Decrease triglycerides: Elevated triglycerides have been associated with leptin resistance because it is believed that the triglycerides circulating in our blood can interfere with the absorption of leptin to the brain.
Exercise! Regular exercise can help decrease triglycerides levels which, in turn, has a positive impact on leptin recognition in our brain.
Avoid processed foods! Avoiding these foods can help reduce inflammation. Inflammation will negatively affect the leptin levels in our body.
This article was written by Coach Melinda.