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Everything You Need to Know About Leptin Resistance

Published March 16, 2019 (Revised: July 08, 2019)
<article> <section> <p>What if the reason you can’t lose weight isn’t because you’re unable to find the willpower to exercise or eat healthy? What if there was a hormone in your body that was making you feel hungry all the time, even if you just ate?</p> <p>If you’re overweight or have diabetes, there might be. Leptin is a hormone that regulates our appetite. It’s produced in our fat cells, meaning that obesity increases how much leptin we produce. If leptin levels get too high, we stop feeling hungry when we should—instead, we feel hungry all the time. And we burn fewer calories because our body thinks we’re starving.</p> <p>Scary stuff, right? Here’s a quick guide breaking down everything you need to know about leptin resistance, leptin sensitivity, and how the ketogenic diet, sleep, and exercise can help regulate this hormone.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Is Leptin?</header> <p>Leptin is a hormone produced by your body’s fat cells<sup>1</sup>. It’s often referred to as the ‘satiety’ or ‘starvation’ hormone because it sends signals to your brain that you are full or hungry.</p> <p>Since leptin is produced by the body’s fat cells, overweight people produce <i>more</i> leptin. The fat cells tell your brain how much body fat to carry.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="hands-holding-two-hamburgers"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Why Is Leptin Important?</header> <p>Humans evolved to have leptin hormones to keep them from starving or overeating. In terms of survival, both starvation and overfeeding threatens the safety and health of humans in a natural environment (just imagine running from a tiger after eating a couple hamburgers or a big Thanksgiving dinner).</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Is Leptin Resistance?</header> <p>Obesity produces more leptin hormones than people with low body fat. Basically, leptin resistance means that there is so much leptin in your brain (specifically, your hypothalamus) that it isn’t being detected. This makes it difficult to feel full. Anyone that’s ever dieted before can see how leptin resistance is problematic-when you’re hungry all the time, not eating is awful.</p> <p>Because of your body’s resistance or failure to notice leptin, you feel perpetually hungry. It is believed that leptin resistance is one of the main causes of obesity in America<sup>2</sup>.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Are the Symptoms of Leptin Resistance?</header> <p>Leptin resistance is characterized by eating more and burning less calories. Because it can’t sense the leptin hormones, your brain is told to stay in a constant state of starvation. As a result, you feel the need to eat more and also conserve as much energy as possible. Your brain actually acts a different way in order to store extra body fat<sup>3</sup>.</p> <p>While this natural mechanism is designed to help (from a survival standpoint), someone with leptin resistance will naturally struggle to lose weight feeling hungry all the time and burning less calories.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Causes Leptin Resistance?</header> <p>Lots of research has been done on leptin resistance. Here are some potential causes or links to it.</p> <div class="sub-head">Inflammation</div> <p>We know that chronic inflammation is bad for our health-it’s why we love the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">anti-inflammatory properties</a> of the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">keto diet</a>. Inflammation in our tissues leads to disease, joint pain, and other ailments that make weight loss difficult, like leptin resistance.</p> <p>It is believed that inflammatory signaling in your hypothalamus (where leptin goes in your brain) is linked to resistance.</p> <div class="sub-head">Free Fatty Acids</div> <p>Obesity is marked by free fatty acids in the bloodstream. There is a link between obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and leptin signalings. Basically, obesity elevates your free fatty acids and may interfere with signaling in the hypothalamus<sup>4</sup>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="girl-sleeping-on-pillow"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>How Do You Reverse Leptin Resistance?</header> <p>Reducing leptin resistance means losing body fat. Fewer fat cells equal less leptin hormones. While you may not be able to reverse it completely, there are some steps you can take to reduce the symptoms. </p> <p>Avoid processed foods. Processed foods increase inflammation in the gut. We’ve talked before about how <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">gut and brain health</a> are linked.</p> <p>Eat more protein. Protein helps create that satiating—or full—feeling we need to lose weight long-term<sup>5</sup>. It might also help improve leptin sensitivity.</p> <p>Exercise and sleep. As is often the case, leptin resistance is not just a matter of what you put into your body. Other healthy habits factor in and can help reverse or reduce the symptoms of leptin resistance. <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Regular exercise</a> has been proven to help, and <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">poor sleep</a> has been linked to problems with leptin.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Is Leptin Sensitivity?</header> <p>Leptin sensitivity is your body’s natural response to leptin hormones. Leptin works to regulate appetite and body fat by sending signals to the hypothalamus to stop or start eating. When someone has leptin resistance, they are no longer able to detect leptin hormones in the brain.</p> <p>Leptin sensitivity, then, is a measure of your leptin levels and how much is needed for the hormones to work properly. Someone with low body fat has better leptin sensitivity than someone with diabetes or obesity.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Why Would I Want (or Need) to Increase Leptin Sensitivity?</header> <p>Well, if you’re struggling with obesity or diabetes, increased leptin sensitivity makes weight loss much easier. When leptin hormones are able to do their job, your body feels full after meals and is more likely to burn off stored fat as energy.</p> <p>Long-term, normal leptin sensitivity also decreases the chance of diseases born from chronic inflammation.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>How Do I Increase Leptin Sensitivity?</header> <p>Increasing leptin sensitivity is similar to reversing leptin resistance. Here are some specific tips you can use.</p> <div class="sub-head">1. Use Probiotics</div> <p><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Probiotics improve gut health</a>. Your gut is full of <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">forty billion tiny bacteria</a> that stay healthy and happy when you feed them probiotics. They have been shown to heal your intestinal wall, decrease inflammation, and increase leptin sensitivity<sup>7</sup>.</p> <p><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Warrior Made’s digestion bundle</a> offers probiotics and enzymes that help improve your gut health.</p> <div class="sub-head">2. Exercise</div> <p>Physical activity is anti-inflammatory and helps restore sensitivity to normal leptin levels. Plus, movement helps burn calories and body fat which will help you regulate when you are supposed to feel hungry.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="ahi-and-asparagus-and-tomato"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">3. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet</div> <p>Inflammatory foods mess with the signals that leptin hormones send to the brain. An anti-inflammatory diet like the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">keto diet</a> offers a ton of benefits, including increased leptin sensitivity.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>OK, What Do I Need to Remember About Leptin?</header> <p>Leptin resistance and leptin sensitivity are important to understand-even more so if you have diabetes or are obese.</p> <p>Since we said the word ‘leptin’ about one hundred times in the last few paragraphs, let’s sum this up in a few sentences:</p> <p>Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells that regulates appetite. If have a lot of body fat, you have a lot more leptin. People with obesity or diabetes are susceptible to leptin resistance, which messes with our ability to feel hungry at the right times. This makes weight loss very hard. It might not be your lack of willpower that’s causing you to overeat. Perhaps it’s leptin resistance.</p> <p>If you’re in this situation, your goal should be to increase leptin sensitivity. Healthy diet, habits like good sleep and exercise, and even taking <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">probiotics</a> can help improve leptin sensitivity.</p> <p>Our <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">nutrition section</a> is jam-packed with articles about the health benefits of the anti-inflammatory ketogenic diet. At <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Warrior Made</a>, we advocate health tools tools like keto to help you transform your body. And <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">our workouts</a>-simple enough to do at home-are sure to work up an appetite. <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Leptin: a review of its peripheral actions and interactions.</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Molecular mechanisms of central leptin resistance in obesity.</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">The role of leptin in human obesity and disease: a review of current evidence.</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Levels of Free Fatty Acids (FFA)</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Increase in plasma endotoxin concentrations and the expression of Toll-like receptors</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">How to Increase Leptin Sensitivity</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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