If you’ve been working out and following the proper diet plan and have stopped seeing results, it may be because your leptin levels are too low.
Leptin, a hormone produced by the adipose (fat) cells essentially controls your metabolism, hunger, and energy expenditure. A proper leptin system improves brain fitness, mental sharpness, leads to better memory, and enhances mood. Adequate leptin levels are needed in order to stay lean, think clearly, be in a good mood.
When fat cells are filled with an abundance of food, more leptin is secreted, and the leptin enters the brain to curb your appetite. Making you feel full and satisfied. If your leptin levels are too low all the time, you’re probably malnourished and have very little body fat. Or it may be a rare genetic inability to produce leptin. On the other hand, overweight people are not leptin deficient; they produce too much leptin. Excessive levels of leptin often go hand in hand with high sugar and elevated insulin levels.
Leptin regulates hunger via three pathways:
- By counteracting the effects of neuropeptide Y, a potent feeding stimulant secreted by the hypothalamus and certain gut cells.
- By counteracting the effects of anandamide, another feeding stimulant.
- By promoting the production of a-MSH, an appetite suppressant.”
It is directly tied to insulin levels. Many people these days are Leptin resistant and there are many health problems tied to this problem. This means the cells in the brain that should register leptin no longer ‘read’ the signals saying the body is full, but instead assume it is starving — no matter how much food you continue to eat.
High leptin levels have been tied to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and stroke, as well as blood sugar related problems.
|Chronically elevated insulin levels> No leptin signal -> The brain doesn’t “see” that we have plenty of energy stored and thinks we’re starving, making us eat.|
Factors Affecting Leptin Levels
As with all hormone issues, Leptin resistance is a complex issue with no singular cause, but there are many factors that can negatively impact Leptin levels including:
Fructose consumption (especially in forms like High Fructose Corn Syrup): Fructose appears to affect the leptin pathway in two ways. First, fructose directly renders the hypothalamus resistant to leptin. Normally responsive receptors in the brain have a muted, or even silent, response to leptin when fructose intake is high. Second, high blood triglycerides – brought on by a high fructose intake – block the passage of leptin to the brain. High triglycerides actually physically prevent leptin from passing through the blood-brain barrier, and the leptin that does get through elicits a poor response from leptin receptors.
High stress levels: In relation to weight loss, stress is pretty much your worst enemy. This is especially true for individuals that predominantly store weight in their midsection. As stress levels in your body rise, so do the levels of cortisol and adrenaline. These increased levels can either fuel your fire or shut it down. Cortisol, insulin, leptin and serotonin are all hormones that affect fat loss and are influenced by stress.
Consumption of a lot of simple carbs: Studies show that low-carb diets reduce your appetite and make you eat less calories and lose weight pretty much effortlessly, as long as you manage to keep the carbs down
Focus on fat, not protein: Go easy on the Omega-6. Avoid vegetable oils, and limit nuts and seeds. Turn up the Omega-3, Eat more fish and seafood. This promotes satiety and gives the body the building blocks to make hormones.
Lack of sleep: Inadequate sleep can lead to excessive levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can induce insulin resistance and (especially in the belly) weight gain, but we also know that sleep deprivation has been linked to lowered serum leptin. Get your eight-ish hours a night and try avoiding late night electronic usage, which can disrupt sleep patterns.
High insulin levels: When it comes to reducing leptin resistance, the first place to look is insulin. Leptin and insulin are buddy hormones. In people with a healthy metabolism, this isn’t an issue, because insulin levels return to normal after a meal, taking leptin levels back with them. For people with insulin resistance, though, this spells trouble. Chronically elevated insulin levels mean chronically elevated leptin levels, which means leptin resistance is a hop, skip, and a jump away.
Overeating: An individual’s optimal dietary intake depends on age, gender, body composition, activity levels, personal preference, food culture and current metabolic health. People who are physically active and have more muscle mass can tolerate a lot more carbs than people who are sedentary. This particularly applies for those who do a lot of high intensity, anaerobic work like lifting weights or sprinting.
Exercising too much, especially if your hormones are already damaged. Walk or swim if you want to but don’t do cardio just for the sake of cardio. It’s just a stress on the body. High intensity and weight lifting, on the other hand, give the hormone benefits of working out without the stress from excess cardio and are great after the first few weeks. Also, workout in the evening, not the morning, to support hormone levels. A good form of this type of exercise is H.I.I.T. (high intensity interval training).
Grain and lectin consumption: Lectins, specifically those from cereal grains, are direct causes of leptin resistance. He observes that wheat germ agglutinin, or WGA, (a lectin present in wheat, barley, and rye) actually binds directly with the leptin receptor and prevents leptin binding. The inability of leptin receptors to bind with leptin adequately describes leptin resistance, making lectins a potential aggravator of leptin resistance. Abnormally high levels of WGA were used to bind receptors, though, so it remains to be determined whether normal dietary levels of WGA are enough to induce leptin resistance.
Avoid Severe Calorie Restriction : Too much dieting inhibits leptin secretion. In fact, drastic reductions in caloric intake reduce leptin levels, faster than could be explained by body fat losses (the same goes for overfeeding, which increase leptin levels faster than can be explained by body fat gain). This can make getting really lean really difficult – the leaner you get and the less you eat, the lower your leptin gets and the more your appetite increases. Hormones always win.
Having protein for breakfast is one step you can take to begin to restore leptin sensitivity. Fiber-rich foods, fish and leafy greens are recommended to regulate leptin levels in the body.