Many people falsely believe that weight gain is all about calories and willpower. However, modern obesity research disagrees and researchers are increasingly showing interest in a hormone called leptin.
Being resistant to the effect of this hormone is believed to be the leading cause of fat gain in humans which is further progressed to develop into obesity.
WHAT IS LEPTIN HORMONE?
Leptin is a hormone which is produced by the fat cells of the body. It is often referred to as the “satiety hormone” or the “starvation hormone”. Its primary target is in the brain, particularly an area called the hypothalamus. It is carried by the bloodstream into the brain, where it sends a signal to the hypothalamus and controls when and how much we eat.
Lots of leptin tells the brain that we have plenty of fat stored, while low levels of leptin tell the brain that fat stores are low and that we are at risk of starvation. This way it manages eating.
Leptin has many other functions related to fertility, immunity, brain function etc. However, its main role is long-term regulation of energy balance and the amount of calories we eat and expend and how much fat we store on our bodies.
HOW LEPTIN BECOMES RESISTANT IN OBESITY?
People who are obese have a lot of body fat in their fat cells. Being proportional to body fat, leptin levels are also high in obese people. To decrease this body fat in obese people, leptin is supposed to work and tells the brain that these people shouldn’t be eating.
Their brain should know that they have plenty of energy stored. However, the problem is that the leptin signal is not working. There is a lot of leptin floating around, but the brain doesn’t see that it is there. This condition is known as leptin resistance. It is now believed to be the main biological abnormality in human obesity.
When the brain doesn’t receive the leptin signal, it erroneously thinks that the body is starving, even though it has more than enough energy stored. This makes the brain to regain the fat that is supposed to be missing.
This situation originates following two conditions:
Reduced Energy Expenditure
The brain thinks that we must eat so that we don’t starve to death. The brain thinks we need to conserve energy, so it makes us feel lazier and makes us burn fewer calories at rest.
MECHANISMS BEHIND LEPTIN RESISTANCE
Several cellular mechanisms behind leptin resistance have been identified:
Inflammation: Inflammatory signaling in the hypothalamus is an important cause of leptin resistance in both animals and humans.
Free Fatty Acids: Having elevated free fatty acids in the bloodstream may increase fat metabolites in the brain and interfere with leptin signaling.
Having high leptin: Having elevated levels of leptin in the first place seems to cause leptin resistance.
A key to preventing (or reversing) leptin resistance is reducing diet-induced inflammation. There are several things which can be done and include:
Avoid processed food: Highly processed foods may compromise the integrity of the gut and drive inflammation. It is better to avoid processed food such as burger, snacks, pizza, etc.
Eat soluble fiber: Eating soluble fiber can help improve gut health and may protect against obesity. It includes wheat bran, oats, barley, oranges, dried beans, lentils, etc.
Exercise: Physical activity may help to reverse leptin resistance. This will also help you lose weight and balances energy outcome with food intake.
Sleep: Poor sleep has been implicated in problems with leptin. Thus, sound sleep of atleast 8 hours is must for adult individuals with obesity.
Lower your triglycerides: Having high blood triglycerides can prevent the transport of leptin from blood and into the brain. The best way to lower triglycerides is to reduce carbohydrate intake.
Eat protein: Eating plenty of protein can cause automatic weight loss. There are many reason for that, one of them may be an improvement in leptin sensitivity.
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