Recent research in the topic of obesity is showing that weight gain is not just related to excessive calorie intake, lack of exercise, and low willpower. It is now believed that a resistance to a hormone called leptin is one of the leading causes of fat gain in people.
So what exactly is leptin, and what does it do for our bodies? Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells. It is incredibly important to the body and primarily targets the area of our brain called the hypothalamus (the area that controls when and how much we eat). Leptin’s primary role is to regulate how many calories we eat and burn, and how much fat we store. Leptin’s job is to tell our brains that we have enough fat stored, we don’t need to consume more food, and that we can burn calories at a normal rate.
People who are obese in turn have a lot of fat in their fat cells. Since fat cells produce leptin in direct proportion to their size, people who are overweight tend to have much higher levels of leptin. Because leptin is designed to let our brains know to stop eating, people with higher amounts of the hormone shouldn’t be experiencing a lot of hunger and should be receiving the message that they have enough energy stored. However, recent research is showing that higher levels of leptin is causing a problem with the leptin signal. Although there is a high amount of leptin circulating in the body, the brain doesn’t detect that it is there. This is referred to as leptin resistance. With leptin resistance the brain thinks we must get something to eat so we don’t starve. This leads to increased hunger and leads to overeating. In addition to increased hunger, our brains make us feel more tired so that we burn fewer calories. Leptin resistance is considered to be the main biological abnormality related to obesity in humans. In this situation, eating more and exercising less is not the cause of gaining weight, it is the consequence of leptin resistance.
Cause of Leptin Resistance
The main cause of leptin resistance is due to our diets. Refined carbohydrates (ex. breads, rice, pasta, potatoes, sugar) can cause inflammation in our bodies and interfere with the leptin signal to the brain. Most people who have problems with leptin will need to restrict the intake of sugars and carbohydrates forever.
Reversing High Leptin
There are two main strategies to help reverse leptin resistance:
• Avoid processed foods (especially sugars and starchy carbohydrates):
These foods promote inflammation and cause an imbalance of bacteria in the stomach.
• Watch your triglycerides: Having a high level of blood triglycerides can hinder the transport of leptin to the brain. Reducing the intake of carbohydrates (especially from fructose) is the best way to lower triglycerides.
Take Away Message
There is a strong biochemical force that is contributing to obesity in our world today. This force is particularly fueled by the Western diet. Where there is a diet full of refined carbohydrates and sugars, chronic diseases and obesity are sure to follow. The reasons and causes for obesity in our culture are very diverse and at times complicated, however one of the main causes people gain weight and have a difficult time losing is due leptin resistance. To learn more about this hormone and how it effects your weight, contact one of the Blue Sky MD offices today.