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Leptin Resistance - The New Weight Loss Dilemma

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As if insulin resistance wasn’t enough, now you can make room for Leptin resistance.

Leptin resistance is emerging as a leading cause of obesity, weight loss difficulty and age related weight gain. Under the category of things we didn’t know  that we are starting to figure out about life long weight loss and weight management, it turns out that prolonged and chronic elevated leptin from being overweight and eating high density foods create leptin resistance, which in turns predisposes you towards weight gain, premature aging and obesity.

Leptin is one of the key hormones involved in hunger, metabolism and the control of how energy from fats and carbs get stored and utilized. Not coincidentally, it is derived from the Greek word ‘leptos’ meaning thin. Here are a few of the things that Leptin does

-Leptin is perhaps the key signaling hormone circulating in your blood that signals your hypothalamus you have eaten enough and need to start burning fat. In simplest terms, your hypothalamus is the control center for fullness and fat storage, and circulating leptin in your blood is the key signal for your hypothalamus in this regard.

-Leptin production by fat cells signals your hypothalamus that you need more or less body fat.

-The rate of production of leptin directly correlates with weight loss or weight gain. (Women have significantly higher circulating leptin than men)

Leptin resistance is very similar conceptually to insulin resistance. With insulin resistance, chronic elevated levels of insulin make your muscle and fat cells more resistance to the action of insulin. Leptin resistance is very similar. Chronic elevated levels of leptin decrease the hypothalamus sensitivity to leptin.

To put it plainly, if your hypothalamus is resistant to leptin signaling, you tend to eat way too much. This also makes weight loss much more difficult because it makes dieting and restricting food something your body does not want to do.

What you need to understand about leptin resistance is that it is progressive. Once you become resistant to leptin, it leads to more eating, which leads to elevated leptin, which leads to more eating, which makes weight loss very difficult. This is why obesity research is now turning to leptin signaling as a potential causal agent in obesity. It’s that powerful a process.

While the idea of leptin resistance is frontier science and LookCut is probably the only place you have heard of this in a weight loss context, there are a few basic things you can do to mitigate becoming leptin resistant.

AVOID HIGH DENSITY FOOD – Foods that are highly caloric promote elevated leptin. What do I mean by high-density food?  In short, foods that have a very high ratio of calories and energy to their total volume. Think processed foods – fried foods, cheesecake, pizza, concentrated sugar drinks.

If you think we are just rehashing old ground with the ‘crap foods to avoid’ list, you must consider your own hunger and appetite patterns.  If you have chronic appetite problems the thing we must now consider in light of the new information on leptin resistance is how this problem is progressive. It only gets worse and makes weight loss more difficult.

BALANCE YOUR FATS AND SUGARS – High sugar and low essential fat intake causes hunger. Good essential fat intake combined with heavy fibrous carbs for volume tends to make you full.

AVOID CHRONIC HUNGER VIA MORE MEALS: The current trend in the weight loss and medical community of medicating hunger is something I totally disagree with.  Hunger should be dealt with through food, not drugs. So much to do with hunger can be mediated with volume foods, good fats and frequent meals. This really becomes a tactical problem. The reality for most of us is too many tasks, too much pressure, and too little time to eat right. Fortunately, there are more solutions than ever. There are fantastic meal delivery services, healthier menus, better salads, meal replacements and weight loss meal services that are available to us. We will be putting together a directory of such services probably next month.

LOSE WEIGHT: While this seems like a catch-22, that’s exactly what leptin resistance is, a catch 22. The fact is, being overweight goes hand in hand with elevated leptin. You HAVE to lose the weight to really get control of this. Next month, we will be introducing a very good system to help with this (bear with me in the beta stage of LookCut here)

In summary, leptin resistance is no joke. It’s real and we want to avoid becoming leptin resistant at all costs. We will stay on this topic as more develops

Jaquier: Leptin Signaling, adiposity and energy balance.

Ingvartsen, Boisclair: Leptin and the regulation of food intake, energy homeostasis and immunity with special focus on periparturient ruminants

Williams, Bing, Harrold, King, Liu: The hypothalamus and the control of energy homeostasis: different circuits, different purposes

Scarpace PJ, Zhang Y Elevated leptin: consequence or cause of obesity?

Zhang, Scarpace PJ: The role of leptin in leptin resistance and obesity