We tend to think that diet, exercise, and obesity are completely within our control and that weight loss is merely a matter of willpower, diet, and exercise. These thoughts leave people who are overweight or obese feeling that they are just “weak” and that there is something wrong with them. Not only are these thoughts disempowering, but also they are not entirely true.
The truth is that weight loss is not merely a factor of diet and willpower, but is also a factor of hormonal balance in your body. Leptin, ghrelin, and insulin are hormones that regulate fat burning, hunger, and weight loss. If you want to lose weight, then you need ensure these hormones remain balanced.
How Leptin Affects Your Weight
In a study published in Metabolism, scientists found that most obese individuals are leptin resistant. Restoring leptin sensitivity could therefore help restore healthy energy levels, regulate overall hormonal function, and improve your metabolism.
Energy levels, metabolism, and hormonal levels are all crucial factors in beating obesity. But what is leptin and how does leptin actually work?
Leptin – the Weight Loss Switch
Without going into major medical detail, leptin, insulin, and ghrelin, all function like the switches on a thermostat. In a heater for example, the thermostat monitors the level of heat in the room. When the room gets too cold the thermostat switches your heater on. When the heat level rises too high, the thermostat switches your heater off and this allows the temperature to drop again. Leptin levels function in much the same way.
- As leptin levels increase, the increased leptin levels tell your brain to stop storing fat and to start burning fat. The brain, like the thermostat, switches fat storage off and switches fat burning on.
- When the levels drop too low, like the temperature in the heater, then the brain switches fat storage on again.
In a healthy person, leptin levels determine how hungry you get and how much fat your body stores. The leptin system is a system that evolved to keep us from getting too fat on the one hand and from starving on the other hand.
Leptin Resistance and Obesity
Sadly, most obese individuals have developed a condition called leptin resistance. In short, their thermostat has stopped working. The good news for obese patients is that it isn’t entirely down to the fact that you are too “weak-willed” to lose weight, but rather a physiological condition – leptin resistance.
The biggest problem with leptin and obesity is that the hormone leptin is produced by your body’s fat cells. The more fat cells you have the more leptin your body produces. This creates a viscous cycle for individuals with obesity and may explain why most obese individuals are resistant to leptin. Obese individuals have more fat cells and therefore have higher leptin level . The problem is that constantly high or increased leptin levels can result in the brain and body becoming resistant to leptin and the brain therefore does not turn your fat storing switch off, or the fat burning switch on. You therefore stay hungry and store more and more fat.
The Consequences of Leptin Resistance
Leptin resistance therefore results in two basic physiological consequences:
- You remain hungry
Your brain thinks the body needs more fat and so it keeps telling you to eat and it keeps telling your body to store the fat.
- You have low energy levels
Your brain instructs your body to conserve energy, which reduces your metabolic rate and the rate at which you produce energy.
Low energy levels and constant hunger are deal breakers where beating obesity is concerned. But for obese individuals with obesity, it isn’t all bad news. The good news is that you can beat leptin resistance.
How you Develop Leptin Resistance
Science has identified a number of factors that contribute to the development of leptin resistance. Contributing factors include: Page2