People who are overweight have generally high levels of a substance called Leptin. But they don’t know it as their leptin signal is not working. This condition is known as leptin resistance. Leptin resistance can cause some unwanted conditions and problems in your body. In this article we will look in detail about the phenomenon of leptin resistance. How does it impacts your body? And how can you overcome or avoid it?
What is Leptin?
Leptin is basically a hormone. It is directly connected with body fat and obesity. It comes from fat cells located in adipose tissues. Adipose tissues themselves are found in various parts of the body like for example, beneath the skin, around internal organs, in bone marrow, around breast etc. Leptin helps regulate your long-term food intake and energy. In other words, it helps maintain your body weight. The amount of leptin is proportional to the amount of body fat an individual has. The more body fat you have the higher the levels of secretion of leptin.
Functions of leptin:
Leptin helps in controlling your hunger and regulating your energy levels. It makes sure that your body does not trigger hunger signals when it does not need energy. In simple words you eat only when you need to. In case this hormone malfunctions, the body can trigger huge signals of hunger and food cravings. This can happen especially when you are trying to lose weight. The low levels of this hormone can increase your food intake which can make weight loss difficult. Leptin is therefore also referred to as a satiety hormone. Its normal functioning will keep your body satisfied.
Leptin has other functions too related to fertility, immunity and brain.
When a body is functioning normally the excess fat in your body will produce leptin which in turn will feed signal to hypothalamus, the part in your brain which tells you when and how much to eat, to lower your appetite. By doing this the body will use the fat deposits in the body to feed itself. When the hypothalamus cells in the brain stop reading the signals from leptin, we call this condition as leptin resistance. The brain perceives that there isn’t enough food in the body and gets in a sort of food frenzy. It will send all sorts of signals to you to eat more and more to make up for this perceived food deficit. What happens is that when you eat, your body fat level goes up, resultantly the leptin levels going up too. Thus, you eat less and burn more. Conversely, when you don’t eat your fat levels go down causing drop in leptin levels too. At that point you eat more and burn less.
Leptin resistance is now believed to be one of the main contributors to obesity.
Causes of Leptin resistance:
Several conditions have been identified as potential causes of leptin resistance. Some of them are;
Inflammation: The inflammatory signals in the hypothalamus part of your brain are one of the reasons for leptin resistance.
Elevated levels of fatty acids: Having increased levels of fatty acids in your bloodstream may cause fat metabolites in your brain and interfere with leptin signaling.
High levels of leptin: If you have high levels of leptin you are most likely to develop leptin resistance.
How do you know if you are leptin resistant?
It is important to know if you have leptin resistance in order for you to take remedial measures. It is often times very difficult to know if you have it or not as it does not manifest itself in very obvious signals. Your hunger pangs could be one of the symptoms of leptin resistance but people tend to overlook it. But if it persists, or relapses it is perhaps not a bad idea to consult a doctor.
If you are obese you are at a high risk of having leptin resistance. As it is more than likely that you are already carrying high levels of leptin in your bloodstream.
A simple test that you can conduct is to see yourself in the mirror. If you notice a lot of body fat especially in and around the belly area then you could be having leptin resistance and its time to take professional help.
How to avoid leptin resistance?
Theories abound whether or not you can reverse the leptin resistance. The science is still inconclusive on that and research is ongoing.
Some researchers believe by adopting an overall healthy lifestyle you can reverse this phenomenon. Eating a diet that doesn’t cause you inflammation can reduce it too. Other measures include;
Processed food: It is about time you say goodbye to highly processed, packaged and preserved food. They will put the health of your gut in danger and also cause inflammation.
Fiber: Eating soluble fiber can improve your gut health and may also keep obesity at bay.
Exercise: At the heart of many ailments is the lack of physical activity. So, get going and sweat it out.
Sleep: Not getting enough sleep can also cause leptin to malfunction.
Triglycerides: Triglycerides, simply put are the fat deposits in your body for consumption when needed. Having high triglycerides can hamper the flow of leptin in the blood. Therefore, keep them at optimum levels.
Protein: By having enough proteins you make sure that your weight remains in check. It also aids in weight loss.
Leptin resistance is possible but it will require significant changes in eating and lifestyle habits.
Leptin resistance could be one of the reasons people become overweight and obese. You cannot always blame it on lack of exercise and unhealthy eating habits. There may be strong biochemical reasons behind it as well. Leptin resistance can be overcome by adopting a holistic approach towards a healthy lifestyle regime. To avoid leptin resistance, stay away from junk and packaged food and lead a healthy life.