Leptin Hormone – The “Fullness” Hormone

Leptin Hormone: Fast Facts

  • Discovery of Leptin Hormone: 1994
  • The name originated from Greek word Leptos (meaning thin).
  • Leptin is also referred to as the “satiety”, “fullness”, “body fat regulation” or starvation” hormone
  • Where is Leptin produced: Fat cells
  • What is the function of Leptin: Leptin regulates metabolism and appetite. It restores fat reserves as food is consumed and is one of our bodies “survival” mechanisms that protect us against famine. Once fat reserves have been restored, Leptin then makes a decision on how much fuel the body is requiring and where it would be best utilised.
  • Leptin’s hormonal message: Signals the brain regarding food consumption, metabolism and energy expenditure. This information received by the brain will, in turn, regulate the breakdown of fat stored.
  • Recent research from Monash University in Australia indicates that the hormone leptin has the potential to substantially increase thermogenesis, which in turn helps to burn fat.

What controls the release of Leptin Hormone?

Leptin receptors are located mostly in the hypothalamus of the brain, but they are also located throughout the body. The hypothalamus in the brain is where leptin secretion primarily occurs. When leptin levels increase, leptin attaches to leptin receptors in the hypothalamus. The metabolic rate increases and the brain signals out that leptin levels are fueled aka you have eaten and are satisfied.  Consequently, the brain sends out a message that you are no longer hungry and one’s metabolic rate decreases as leptin levels fall.

Leptin’s effect on the brain

Leptin communicates with the brain by telling it to slow down on energy consumption, for now, while the body has sufficient energy stored. It communicates satiety which in turn decreases fat storage and increases fat usage. It is also involved in increasing bone thickness and strength.

Leptin hormone and how it communicates with the brain and fat tissue

What is Leptin Resistance?

Through excessive eating and obesity and an increased number and size of fat cells, blood leptin levels rise very high. The brain over time becomes insensitive to the leptin hormone. At this point, leptin fails to decrease appetite as it should.  The stressed fat cells start to cause inflammation leading to an unhealthy storage of fat around and within internal abdominal organs (visceral fat), arteries and muscle white adipose tissue. This belly fat (Visceral Fat) is dangerous and can lead to the development of chronic diseases.  The effect of this leptin resistance results in increased blood pressure, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, cancers, osteoporosis and accelerated ageing.

By decreasing the blood leptin levels, leptin sensitivity returns, the healthy appetite – satiety messages resume, the desire to eat is then reduced, fat storage/usage returns to normal, and obesity is easier to control.

An optimal fasting leptin range is 3.7 – 7.4 ng/ml.

When the leptin signal is not being heard, it cannot stimulate one’s metabolism, nor can it suppress one’s appetite when full. This can make losing weight very difficult. 

Tips to help alleviate or prevent leptin resistance
  • Supplementing one’s diet with taurine may reduce or prevent leptin resistance.
  • Goin overboard on carbs is a bad choice, so avoid it if you want to avoid leptin resistance. Carbs in high quantity will raise leptin production. It is also suggested that one avoid excessive amounts of sugar. Both of these consumptions have the potential to result in insulin spikes which in turn raise leptin levels.
  • A recent study indicates the importance of sleep with regards to leptin levels.  Those in the study who were unable to sustain a good nights rest ended up having a 15% lower leptin level than the participants who did get enough sleep. Leptin levels are known to rise during the sleep cycle.
  • Perform high-intensity activity for a short time span. By doing so, this stimulates significant GH secretions which in turn boost fat-burning mechanisms and help to regulate leptin levels.
Why is it leptin such an important hormone to keep in balance?
Leptin hormone and how it communicates with the brain and fat tissue
Methods to reset leptin levels
There are natural methods to elevate leptin hormone levels which include fasting (24-72 hours), a very low-calorie diet of 500 calories per day, avoiding fructose, sugar, grains and processed foods. One should increase their protein consumption eating approximately (1 gram per kilogram of lean bodyweight per day) and consume healthy fats (coconut, coconut oil, avocados, butter, nuts, animal fats, krill oil), exercise, stress management. Testosterone decreases the leptin hormone, and oestrogen increases it.

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