Losing weight can already be challenging, but especially so if someone’s hormones are imbalanced. Leptin is one of those hormones that scientists are now finding more evidence related to how and why it affects people struggling with weight.
- The function of leptin is essentially to regulate our body weight. Produced by fat cells, this hormone tells our brains, when we have enough fat stored, we no longer need to eat, therefore burning calories at a normal rate. It is very effective at preventing starvation, however, sometimes there is something wrong in the mechanism that’s meant to keep us from overeating.
- Carried by the bloodstream and into your brain, fat cells use Leptin to signal how much fat they carry to the brain. High levels tell the brain there’s a lot of fat stored, and low levels tell the brain there is not enough fat storage and that we need to eat.
- With overweight individuals, specifically people with obesity, their leptin signaling may not work even if large amounts of leptin are present, the brain may not catch it. Leptin resistance is now believed to be one of the main biological contributors to obesity. Think about it, if the brain doesn’t receive the signals from leptin, it may think the body is starving. People with leptin resistance end up eating more than others and have reduced energy expenditure due to the broken mechanism.
- The impact this has on dieting is significant because once the fat is lost, leptin levels decrease, and the brain can interpret this as “starvation mode” therefore changing our inner biological behavior, making us regain the lost fat.
Can this be reversed?
- It is not entirely clear how this can be reversed however theories exist. Some researchers believe avoiding processed foods, eating more soluble fiber, exercising, and sleeping more are all ways that can help reverse this. Fiber can help improve gut health, reducing diet-induced inflammation may help reverse leptin resistance and better exercise and sleep is always a good lifestyle change.
Stay tuned for more in the “Understanding Hormones” series!
Written by GUADs Summer intern Carla with contributions from www.healthline.com