Leptin is a hormone produced by our fat cells, which sends messages to our brain (hypothalamus). It’s role is regulation of energy balance – to stop us over eating or from starving – and it does this by affecting our hunger levels and the amount of fat stored on our body.
The more fat on our body, the more leptin we produce. High levels of leptin tell our brain that we have good fat stores, we don’t need to eat, and our metabolism can be higher. As we eat less and store less fat, our leptin levels drop and tell the brain that we need to eat more and the body needs to lower its metabolism. This is why sudden weight loss can cause a weight loss plateau and binge eating.
The leptin signal can also get interrupted – this is called leptin resistance and means that the brain doesn’t see the correct levels of leptin in the body. In this instance an overweight person can be getting incorrect messages from the brain telling them to eat more and slowing their metabolism and energy expenditure.
This can be due to inflammation in the body which affects the hypothalamus, too many free fatty acids in the blood and fat metabolites in the brain which interfere with leptin signalling; or getting to a point where leptin levels are very high (obesity or being overweight). A sign of this is often a lot of abdominal fat.
Reversing leptin resistance is possible, however you need to address the high levels of inflammation and blood triglycerides. This can often be achieved by a high fibre, high good fats and protein. high antioxidant diet.
Research has shown that a low carb diet (not no carb!) has shown success in reducing blood triglycerides as avoiding blood sugar spikes is key. Sticking to carbs from high fibre fruit & vegetables, wholegrains and dairy is key, avoiding refined foods, and added sugar.
Improving sleep and physical activity have both been linked with improving leptin resistance. Make sure that you eat some carbs as good sleep requires melatonin production, which is reliant on carbs and can be affected by fasting or a low energy diet.
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