Leptin – The “Fullness” Hormone

Leptin is that connection between fat and the brain. It controls all energetic function in the body. 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. 

What is the 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” hormone.
  • Leptin is produced in the white fat cells
  • What is the function of Leptin: Leptin regulates one’s metabolism and appetite.
  • Leptin’s hormonal message: Signals the brain regarding food consumption, metabolism and energy expenditure.
Leptin hormone and how it communicates with the brain and fat tissue
The Function of Leptin

  • Leptin 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 hormone then decides on how much fuel the body is requiring and where it would be best utilised.

Leptin and Fat Burning

  • 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.

Were you breastfed? The link between leptin and breastmilk.

  • Leptin must first be received by an individual as a baby in their mother’s colostrum (breast milk).
  • Those who were not breastfed will have started off at life with a deficiency, looking at this from an energy metabolism standpoint.
  • Latest research published are the implications of not receiving leptin from your mother’s breast milk at infancy.
  • This very factor is linked to an alteration of one’s DNA called methylation.
  • The information is transmitted to one’s DNA and causes a change that leads to epigenetic signals.
  • When leptin is received as a baby what happens is that it enters the brain and starts to set up your metabolic | energetic status, which will be with you for your whole life.

What controls the release of the hormone leptin?

Leptin receptors are located mostly in the hypothalamus of the brain, but they are also found 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 signal 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.

The effect of leptin 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 when a person is full, which in turn decreases fat storage and increases fat usage. It is also involved in increasing bone thickness and strength.

What is the cause of Leptin Resistance?

Through overconsumption which then leads to obesity and an increased number and size of fat cells, blood leptin levels rise very high.

The brain over time becomes insensitive to the signals provided by 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.

It also causes further disruption in the leptin’s signalling.

Further fat deposits, increases leptin resistance – thus a vicious cycling occurs making it harder to lose stubborn fat deposits and increasing the likelihood of chronic illness.

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.

Tips to help alleviate or prevent leptin resistance
  • Supplementing one’s diet with the amino acid taurine may reduce or prevent leptin resistance.
  • Goin overboard on carbs is a bad choice, so avoid consuming large quantities of carbohydrates or sugar if you want to avoid leptin resistance.
  • A recent study indicates the importance of sleep with regards to maintaining healthy 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.

Stimulating GH secretion through hormonal supplementation may improve symptoms of leptin resistance.

How is Leptin Resistance similar to Insulin Resistance?

Leptin resistance shares common signalling pathways with that of insulin resistance. With insulin resistance, it occurs because of the consistent increase of insulin being produced. Diets that are high in sugar content, as well as those that contain too many simple carbs, will result in the body and brain shutting off their ability to listen to insulin’s signalling.

Unfortunately, both of these types of hormonal resistance tend to occur at the same time in the obese. Men who have more visceral fat which is the harmful internal fat coating organs and women who have more fat under their skin typically have leptin levels that are higher than most.

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.
  • increase protein consumption eating approximately (1 gram per kilogram of lean bodyweight per day)
  • consume healthy fats (coconut, coconut oil, avocados, butter, nuts, animal fats, krill oil)
  • exercise
  • stress management

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Physiology of leptin: energy homeostasis, neuroendocrine function and metabolism