How Leptin Resistance Promotes Weight Gain and What to Do?
Leptin resistance could sabotage your weight loss efforts. Learn what it is and natural ways to reverse or limit it.
In leptin resistance, the state of satiety is not reached even when the leptin levels are high. This can lead to overeating and ultimately obesity.
When your energy stores deplete probably after starvation or taking too little food, the levels of leptin slide. This sends information to the brain that it’s time to get hungry. As you start taking food, the levels gradually come back to normal and you no longer feel hungry. This leads to the state of satiety. For this reason, leptin is also called “satiety hormone”.
What is Leptin?
It is a hormone secreted by the fat cells in the body. It works on the brain through its receptors and regulates energy balance. While hunger regulation is its primary function, it also has a role in fertility, immunity, and brain functions.
It is essential to note that obese people secrete more of this hormone than non-obese or lean people. You would expect a fat person to eat less because they have enough satiety hormone. However, there are many instances where fat people with high levels of satiety hormone tend to eat more and add more pounds to their body. This could be indicative of leptin resistance (LR).
Similar to insulin resistance where the cells cannot properly use available insulin, LR causes the brain to think that the level of satiety has not been reached yet.
3 Ways How Leptin Resistance and Obesity are Linked?
LR can promote obesity by three major ways.
- It tricks the brain into believing that your body needs more food. This is a complicated situation, really. Your body has more fat cells, high levels of satiety hormone and still, your love for food never seems to cease. Here is what actually happens. Your body knows you have enough of the hormone but your brain fails to acknowledge that. Consequently, you binge on your favorite meals and your weight loss efforts are lost in limbo.
- It shuts down body’s energy expense mechanisms. Since your brain feels that you are in a state of possible starvation or negative energy balance, it sends signals to reduce energy expenditure. As a result, your metabolic processes are slowed down and the body shifts into energy-saving mode. Most probably, you can think what happens next!
- It affects reward system in the brain. When you are hungry, the foods seem more palatable. This change in the perception of food palatability results due to the brain’s reward system. In a normal case, when you have taken enough food, the palatability of the food decreases. However, for leptin-resistant people, eating foods is invariably a rewarding activity. Here again, the root cause of dysfunctional reward system is brain’s failure to understand that you are no more hungry.
Can Some Food Components Lead to Leptin Resistance?
Of course, food components such as sugar and fats have a clear link with an increased risk of LR in animal studies. Here we look at the key study findings that suggest certain food components could be the culprits.
Fructose, the main component of table sugar, is a well-known cause of obesity. Apart from this, fructose can promote weight gain by making you leptin-resistant. In a 2012 study published in Advances in Nutrition, researchers found that a diet high in fructose and fats contributed to a greater incidence of LR in experimental rats. Interestingly, when the rats ate a diet without fructose, it led to reversal of the condition and stopped excessive weight gain.
Too much sucrose in your diet can result in LR irrespective of weight gain. Sucrose affects the protein molecules that send signals to the brain that you should stop eating.
Even a small amount of triglycerides (TGs) in your diet is able to induce LR. Studies suggest TGs prevent leptin from reaching its receptors in the brain. When leptin does not interact with its receptors, the brain gets no signal that the body already has enough of the hormone.
Other Causes of Leptin Resistance
- Inflammation of hypothalamus, the part of the brain that processes leptin signals, can be one of the functional causes of leptin resistance.
- Obese people have more fat cells and hence higher levels of leptin, which can contribute to leptin resistance.
What Nutritional Approaches Can Reverse or Limit Leptin Resistance
- Stop taking processed food. These foods have high amounts of sugars and unhealthy fats. Recall both these dietary factors have the potential to make you leptin-resistance. In addition, they boost inflammation and disrupt gut
- Take more fiber. A high-fiber diet gives the feeling of fullness without adding extra calories.
- Limit your fat intake. Recall that triglycerides fuel leptin resistance by blocking the hormone from reaching your brain.
- Get enough sleep. Aim for at least 7 hours of quality sleep. Too little or too much sleep can disrupt your hormone balance.
- Manage stress.
- Stay active. Well, it’s no new thing that exercise is a great way to shed some pounds. Losing weight reduces the production of leptin and helps to improve the effects of leptin resistance.
The Bottom Line
Both weight gain and weight loss are complex physiological processes. That said, no single factor is entirely responsible for obesity or failed attempts at losing weight. Hormones, dietary nutrients, and environmental factors have their own share of influence on weight gain.
The best way to address your weight problem is to consult an expert who evaluates how your body is working and designs a diet plan that best meets your unique individual needs.
Want to Know More?
To know more about leptin resistance and natural ways to reverse it, talk to an expert. Also, know how an individually customized nutrition helps to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Click here to set an appointment today.
- Myers, MG Jr., et al. “Obesity and leptin resistance: distinguishing cause from effect.” Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2010 Nov;21(11):643-51.
- Clément, K., et al. “A mutation in the human leptin receptor gene causes obesity and pituitary dysfunction.” Nature. 1998 Mar 26;392(6674):398-401.
- Myers, MG Jr., et al. “Defining Clinical Leptin Resistance – Challenges and Opportunities” Cell Metabolism. 2012 Feb 8; 15(2): 150–156.
- Friedman, MJ., et al. “Leptin and the regulation of body weight in mammals” Nature. 1998 October 22; 395, 763-770.
- Vasselli, RJ. The Role of Dietary Components in Leptin Resistance” Advances in Nutrition. 2012 September; 3:736-738.
- Sahu, A. “Leptin signaling in the hypothalamus: emphasis on energy homeostasis and leptin resistance.” Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology. 2003 Dec;24(4):225-53.