A Closer Look at Leptin and Its Relationship to Female Weight Loss
If you’re one of the millions of people that has been struggling with weight loss for years, then you may already have heard a thing or two about a hormone called leptin. There are those out there that refer to it as the “fat hormone” or even the “obesity hormone”. There are even instances that have seen it described as the “starvation hormone”.
Even so, many laymen have a deficient understanding of what leptin is really all about. How does leptin really affect your body and what is its true role in regards to your weight – especially if you’re female? What can you do to make sure that leptin-related issues aren’t keeping you from being your healthiest self? Let’s take a closer look at the facts behind leptin hormone issues and problems with leptin resistance.
What Is Leptin?
Before you can truly understand the role leptin might be playing in your personal battle with weight management, you need to understand what it really is (as well as what it is not). To begin with, it’s not an obesity hormone, nor is it a starvation hormone. It’s actually a protein that is generated within the body’s fat cells. From there, it makes its way into the bloodstream and eventually also the brain. Its role is to:
Communicate to your brain that your body’s internal energy thermostat is (or is not) set correctly.
Communicate that the amount of energy currently stored in your body’s fat cells is or is not sufficient enough to maintain a normal (and relatively high) metabolic rate.In other words, when your body’s leptin hormone levels reach and/or exceed a certain preset threshold, your brain gets the message that it’s fine to continue burning calories at a typical rate. This in turn signals your brain to encourage food consumption at normal rates, exercise in normal amounts, and continual function of all body processes including maintenance of your reproductive system.
What Happens to Leptin Levels When You Diet?
As you might imagine, leptin levels are dependent on factors like your body fat percentage and your overall calorie intake. The less you eat and the lower your levels of body fat, the more likely it is that your body’s production of leptin will decrease in kind. This is most likely to happen when people elect to go on diets and drastically cut food intake in order to reduce body fat.
When you cut back on calorie intake and begin to lose weight, your leptin levels dip. Your brain naturally picks up on the change and concludes that the body doesn’t have access to the same energy intake that it did before. This could cause your brain to further determine that you’re (possibly) starving and to take measures to counteract that situation.
Leptin hormone decrease begins various processes within the body designed to drive your levels of leptin back up where they used to be. One of these involves the stimulation of the vagus nerve, which is in charge of regulating energy storage among other things. When your vagus nerve is turned on, you’re much hungrier than you otherwise would be. The point is to encourage you to eat richer foods (and more of them) in order to build your body’s fat stores back up where your brain would like them to be.
Leptin levels rise and the brain becomes comfortable with the situation once more. However, weight loss is likely to stall and or reverse itself as well. This is exactly why dieting is so difficult, especially when it comes to actually maintaining one’s results on a long-term basis.
What Is Leptin Resistance?
It’s also important to consider the question of why – if blood leptin levels act in much the same way as a thermostat – most people have a tendency to keep on gaining weight despite already being quite overweight in some cases. Wouldn’t the process stall and weight gain stabilize again once the body’s leptin levels are back to the levels a given brain is comfortable with? Are overweight people leptin deficient?
Many overweight and obese people actually show high blood levels of leptin hormone. However, their bodies never seem to receive the signal that it’s time to stop eating and that there’s “enough” in regards to stored energy. Leptin resistance is actually the culprit here. It is similar to insulin resistance in that the body can wind up producing very high levels without responding to those levels to the degree one would expect.
In other words – since leptin is produced by fat cells and obese people have high levels of body fat — leptin levels can be high and you can be very overweight without your body really getting the message. Leptin resistance can mean that your brain thinks you’re starving while your body is actually becoming so fat that it’s harming itself. Leptin resistance can also mean that food consumption is less psychologically rewarding than it otherwise would be. A hearty meal may not send the same “satisfaction” signal in an obese person that it would to someone of normal weight.
This phenomenon only tends to magnify itself when it comes to women. Women naturally maintain higher levels of body fat than men, meaning the results of leptin resistance can be more harmful and more obvious.
Can Leptin Supplements Help Address Obesity?
There are quite a few scientists that suggest leptin supplementation could help address obesity by helping the brain receive the signal that the body does indeed have “enough” when it comes to energy stores. However, there is quite a bit of evidence that such therapies will only be effective for those whose leptin levels are actually low. It won’t do much to address an impaired response when it comes to the brain’s ability to accurately react to leptin and send the correct signals to control appetite.
That brings us to the discussion of the multitude of leptin supplements you’ll see for sale online by various retailers. Many people assume that such supplements are similar to vitamin supplements in that they supply the body with additional leptin in order to bolster deficient body production. However, these supplements are most often actually filled with ingredients designed to help the body deal with leptin resistance instead.
Leptin supplements can help the body improve its internal production of natural leptin in order to help curb appetite.
Leptin supplements can help counteract leptin resistance by helping the body feel fuller and less hungry overall.
Leptin supplements can help promote overall full-body wellness by balancing the endocrine system at large, improving the digestive process, and helping the person feel healthier overall.
At the end of the day, there’s no cut and dried solution that will put an end to the obesity cycle and/or end leptin resistance as we understand it today. Science is still working on research that explains why leptin levels do or don’t have the effects on weight that they do. However, many people have found some degree of success when they combine treatments designed to balance the effects of leptin resistance with tried and true weight management techniques.
In other words, weight management is best approached by consuming nutritious, whole foods to the greatest degree possible, as well as doing one’s best to become and remain active. Various supplements can help a great deal when it comes to reaching your weight loss goals or maintaining progress already achieved. Ask your doctor or nutritionist if leptin resistance could be playing a role in your own personal struggle with obesity and discuss whether or not leptin therapy is right for you.