Weight loss might be more than just willpower.
It turns out that Leptin levels might be the key to understanding obesity and the challenge of weight loss.
Leptin is a hormone that controls hunger.
It’s what makes you feel “full” after eating. It is secreted by adipose tissue (fat tissue). If your leptin signaling is working properly, when your fat stores are “full,” this extra fat will cause a surge in your leptin level, which signals your brain to stop feeling hungry, to stop eating, to stop storing fat and to start burning some extra fat off.
Scientists have long recognized the connection between leptin and feelings of hunger. As the master of metabolism, leptin is on the lookout for how many calories—or how much energy—your body is taking in. It’s essential for maintaining energy balance.
Leptin is also tied closely to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Scientists are just starting to understand the connection between leptin levels, type-2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders. One recent study proved for the first time that leptin levels can indicate your risk of heart disease.
Fixing leptin levels might be the hidden health secret that keeps people from developing heart disease, diabetes, or other metabolic disorders.
Controlling Leptin Levels
It’s important to reduce leptin levels if you want to avoid metabolic disorders and heart disease. The problem is that leptin is directly controlled by weight and it actually tells your body to not be hungry. High leptin levels are supposed to suppress appetite. Another hormone, ghrelin, tells your body to eat.
Together, they control hunger cravings. The problem is that scientists are discovering that many people are resistant to leptin. If you experience resistance, you have no reaction to the hormone that should control your appetite, you only respond to ghrelin—something that tells your body to eat more.
Leptin resistance is tricky. An analysis published in Nature Medicine states that the gene SOCS3 plays a key role in resistance. In many people who are obese, the protein encoded by the SOCS3 gene does not function properly or does get encoded at all. Resultantly, the mind does not react to higher leptin levels.
If your genetic makeup does not naturally respond to the hormones that make you stop eating, there might be no way other than willpower to control food cravings when you attempt to lower your leptin levels.
Even if you aren’t genetically resistant to the signals sent by leptin that tell you not to eat, losing weight will be a challenge. As your body loses fat tissue, levels of leptin will drop and levels of ghrelin—the hormone that tells you to eat—rise.
This is one of the reasons nutritionists recommend eating smaller regular meals. Some scholars argue that frequent meals are one of the keys to weight loss, as they keep energy levels balanced throughout the day. With balanced energy levels, you might be less likely to give in to cravings.
Controlling your leptin levels is going to be about willpower. Getting weight off slowly is the best way to make healthy changes that you can stick to for the long term.