Good eating habits, a regular exercise regimen, and healthy lifestyle habits – all contribute to weight loss. But do you know that weight loss measures show results only if the body secretes enough leptin hormone and the brain corresponds equally? But what really is leptin hormone function in weight loss?
Leptin is a hormone produced by the body’s adipose tissue, also called fat tissue. Its primary role is to induce the feeling of fullness. Its release sends satiety signals to the brain, making the body feel full and less interested in food. This restricts appetite and therefore plays an important role in weight regulation. Thus, the leptin hormone is also called the satiety hormone.
Leptin Hormone Function
The leptin hormone function involves regulation of the body’s food intake and energy expenditure. The release of the hormone controls hunger as it signals the brain a feeling of fullness. The brain in turn signals the body to burn normal calories and regulate energy balance. This suppresses appetite as the body has enough calories to burn.
On the other hand, when the leptin levels are low, it transmits the signals of starvation. The body’s metabolism rate slows down and the body begins to feel hungry. Thus, leptin is also known as the hunger hormone.
What are Normal Leptin Hormone Levels?
The normal leptin levels differ for males and females:
- Adult Male – 0.5 – 12.5 ng/mL
- Adult Female – 0.5 – 15.2 (ng/mL)
This difference is because women have higher adipose or fat tissue than men.
The levels of leptin in the blood are measured through a simple blood test. The results hold significant importance when treating obesity and conditions related to persistent hunger and unintentional weight gain.
1. High Levels of Leptin Hormone
The levels of leptin in the blood are directly related to the amount of adipose tissue or accumulated fat in the body. When the leptin hormone levels in the blood are high, the condition is medically known as hyperleptinemia.
Hyperleptinemia is linked to several health conditions, namely:
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Rabson–Mendenhall syndrome
- Food addiction
- Neurodegenerative disorders
2. Low Levels of Leptin Hormone
When the leptin levels in the blood are lower than normal, the condition is medically termed hyperleptinemia. It is a rare genetic disorder where the adipose tissue in the body fails to produce leptin. It is also known as congenital leptin deficiency.
The condition leads to uncontrolled hunger and persistent food intake. It is also associated with other medical conditions, namely:
- Frequent bacterial infections
- Increased insulin production or hyperinsulinemia
- Fatty liver disease
- Dyslipidemia or imbalance of lipids
- Low levels of sex hormones or hypogonadism
For a normal healthy adult, the association between leptin hormone and adipose fat is direct. Sufficient body fat produces plenty of leptin and the balance between hunger and energy expenditure is regulated.
However, in obese people, the association gets distorted. Although obese people have high adipose fat to release sufficient leptin hormone, the brain develops a lack of sensitivity to leptin, a condition known as leptin resistance.
The brain thus stops acknowledging the signals transmitted by the leptin hormone and fails to feel full or satiated. This leads to uncontrolled eating, contributing to obesity.
To make things worse, leptin resistance signals the brain to save energy. Thus, the body’s metabolism rate drops and the body burns calories at a slower rate, further aggravating obesity.
Do Leptin Supplements Help?
Leptin supplements are drugs that help increase leptin sensitivity. The leptin pills do not contain the leptin hormone but have a mix of nutrients that increase leptin sensitivity in the body. This reduces leptin resistance.
Some of the active ingredients present in leptin supplements are:
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- Fish oil
- Green tea extract
- Soluble fibre
- Conjugated linoleic acid
Natural Ways to Control Leptin Resistance
While leptin supplements can up low leptin levels, it’s the brain that has to receive signals, comprehend them, and respond accordingly. Thus, health experts feel that controlling or correcting leptin resistance is the key to weight loss.
Listed below are some natural ways that are believed to improve leptin resistance, increase leptin sensitivity, and thus promote healthy weight loss:
1. Regular Physical Exercise
Regular physical exercise helps reduce body fat. This in turn reduces the serum leptin levels circulating in the body. When calories burnt through intensive exercise are high, the body gets rid of stored body fat, reducing the production of the leptin hormone. This helps the brain shift from being leptin resistant to leptin sensitive.
2. Cut Down on High-Sugar Foods
High-sugar foods have the highest calorie count. Calories not burnt during the day are stored in the form of fats. As the fat portion in the body increases, the body produces more leptin hormone. High-sugar meals further allow the leptin hormone to stay in the blood for a longer time. This leads to worsening leptin resistance. Eliminating sugar from the diet, therefore, helps increase leptin sensitivity.
3. Eat Fish
Fish contains high amounts of anti-inflammatory compounds. It is a low-calorie food and an excellent source of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. These compounds cut down inflammation and reduce insulin secretion. This increases metabolism, reduces appetite, and increases leptin sensitivity.
4. Eat High-Fibre Cereals
High-fibre cereals are a rich source of soluble dietary fibre which makes the body feel full quickly, restricting appetite. High-fibre cereals also enhance the secretion of leptin-sensitive enzymes and block the expression of leptin resistance enzymes. This also helps increase leptin sensitivity.
5. Adequate Sleep
A good night’s sleep is the key to hormone regulation. Adequate sleep lowers the release of the leptin hormone. On the other hand, lack of sleep increases the production of the ghrelin hormone, also known as the hunger hormone that increases the urge to eat. Therefore, adequate sleep will alter leptin levels and leptin hormone function.
6. Reduce Blood Triglycerides
Triglycerides are the fat found in the blood. Triglycerides and cholesterol together constrict arteries and reduce blood flow. Having high triglycerides also inhibits the quick transportation of leptin signals to the brain. With the delayed signal transmission, the body continues to eat more than what is required. Thus, lowering triglyceride levels through a healthy and balanced diet can increase leptin sensitivity.
Foods to Increase Leptin Sensitivity
When it comes to improving leptin sensitivity, food choices can make a great difference. A low-calorie, low-sugar, and high-fibre diet can help reduce leptin resistance and improve leptin hormone function. Listed below are foods that can help increase leptin sensitivity:
Fruits are an excellent source of natural sugars. They contain fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and adequate water. Regular intake of fruits helps reduce triglyceride levels.
Eating raw, steamed, roasted, or boiled vegetables is the best way to reduce triglyceride levels. Limit your use of starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes.
3. Herbal Tea
Replace your regular sweetened tea with black tea, green tea, or herbal tea. Make sure you do not add artificial sugar.
4. Healthy Oils
Canola oil, olive oil, and high-oleic sunflower oil are the best oils for cooking. You can use flaxseed oil for non-cooking purposes.
Legumes are a great source of proteins and fibre. Add beans, peas, and lentils to your daily diet.
6. Poultry and Fish
Lean meat like poultry and fish is the best way to lower triglycerides.
7. Whole Grain Fibre
Avoid using refined grains like white bread and white flour. Instead, opt for whole-grain cereals like oats, bran, barley, etc.
Mushrooms are the edible part of the macrofungi. Mushrooms are nutrient-rich and help burn body fat.
Leptin is a hormone released by adipose tissue, also known as fat tissue. The circulating levels of the leptin hormone signal the brain about satiety and hunger. High levels of leptin hormone increase the feeling of fullness and signal the brain to stop eating. Conversely, low levels of leptin hormone indicate starvation, increasing hunger.
Besides regulating eating patterns, leptin hormone function also includes regulating metabolism and energy expenditure. Thus, it plays a crucial role in weight management.
But despite having high levels of leptin hormone, obese people tend to develop leptin resistance, a condition wherein the brain fails to recognize the leptin hormone’s signal to stop eating.
Thus, controlling and correcting leptin resistance is the key to weight loss. Leptin sensitivity can be increased naturally. A balanced diet and healthy lifestyle go a long way in reducing leptin resistance, improving its sensitivity, and promoting healthy weight loss.