Why losing weight isn't easy as cake...
Does it feel like you're always hungry? Even shortly after eating a meal or snack? You might be feeling the effects of leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone secreted from fat cells that communicate with the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain that's about the size of an almond, to signal satiety of appetite. When someone has less fat cells sending leptin signals this inadequacy causes the sensation for an increase in appetite. Also referred to as the negative feedback loop works as such: low levels of fat decrease leptin hormone and high levels of fat increase leptin hormone.
However, that's not always the case. Similar to insulin resistance (a symptom that often leads to Type 2 Diabetes), leptin receptors can also have levels of interference that result in leptin resistance. Leptin resistance occurs when high levels of the leptin hormone are in the blood stream, from excess fat, enough to where signals shut down causing a feeling of starvation. The result is increased appetite and decreased energy level. Now, after you eat, it makes a little more sense that you could still be hungry and even tired--you're most likely feeling the effects of leptin resistance.
Of course this is not necessarily always the case (i.e., you could be affected by wheat, sugar, candida, digestive problems, or any number of ailments that contribute to poor health). However if you are overweight and can't break the bad habit with carbs, you're not alone. Not only does leptin work against the odds of blood sugar and fat cells, but it also is going up against the hedonic hotspot of delicious tasting foods-like chocolate cake!
As written in the Annual Review of Physiology(1);
Here are some other factors that contribute to leptin resistance:
- Inflammation: pro-inflammatory mediators upregulate leptin expression
- Free Fatty Acids: increase of fat metabolites interfere with leptin signals
- High fructose corn syrup: increases triglycerides(2)
Leptin, key for regulation
Leptin is an important regulator for the endocrine system (glands), insulin secretion, angiogenesis (blood vessel formation), bone formation, and reproduction. Leptin also plays critical roles in immune responses.
After or even during a meal while food is digesting, blood sugar levels begin to rise and insulin is secreted from the pancreas in order to maintain blood sugar levels. Some of the insulin transports this blood sugar to fat cells (white adipose tissue) for storage. When this blood sugar is metabolized into fat, the hormone leptin is released into the blood stream and begins the journey to the hypothalamus. The more food you eat, the more blood sugar rises, the more leptin is produced. At the same time, when too much sugar is in the blood from too much food consumption, insulin stimulates another reaction, the production of triglycerides (more compact and more permanent) form of adipose tissue (fat storage). The production of triglycerides leads to weight gain because the fat cells are planning on holding onto that energy for a time when energy production is low. Unfortunately, there is a two-part reaction to this production of triglycerides. As triglyceride production rises, the leptin hormone signals are interfered and the brain doesn't receive the signal that satiety has been met. This interference is called leptin resistance. The less the brain receives the signal for fullness, the more the body continues to feel hunger, the more food is consumed, the more insulin is driven towards the formation of triglyceride and the result is more fat storage. This whole process can create a series of problems, especially over prolonged periods of time ranging anywhere from excess weight gain to insulin resistance to the most common result of type 2 diabetes.
What can you do?
- Avoid processed foods that compromise gut integrity and drive symptoms of inflammation
- Eat soluble fiber as it improves gut health and gut integrity
- Exercising helps with insulin effects (remember that insulin is released and stores blood sugar into fat cells, these fat cells work to store energy for other cellular functions. When you exercise, you create a demand for that energy and this demand keeps down the production of triglycerides and when triglyceride production is down the leptin hormone is received and able to signal satiety.)
- Sleep helps regulate hormone and gland functions
- Reduce carb intake (carbs are quickly metabolized and raise blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels raise so does the insulin response, kicking the fat storage into high gear and raising triglyceride production in the process.)
- Adequate protein intake (protein takes longer to digest and helps to decrease insulin blood levels and improve leptin sensitivity, however it's important to recognize that too much protein may have reverse effects on your health.)
How can a Nutritional Therapist help?
Want to understand more about how you can improve leptin and insulin responses? Want to know how to transition from the foods that create fat to the foods that burn fat? Care to work towards greatly reducing your risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes? Schedule an appointment with me today, I'd love to help guide you on this journey towards a better you!