October 15, 2012
Leptin: The Satisfaction Hormone

For every yin there is a yang. And the yang to ghrelin, the hormone that induces feelings of hunger when your stomach is empty-which I wrote about earlier this week-is leptin. Leptin is by far the most important hormone in regulating appetite and metabolism. Leptin is a hormone that's produced by your adipose tissue, or fat stores; it's a long-term regulator of food intake. As fat stores increase, more leptin is released. Leptin then signals to the brain to reduce food intake. The higher the level of leptin, the stronger the feeling of satiety (the feeling of being satisfied) that's induced.

Fat cells in people who are overweight are larger than those of normal-weight people. So, overweight people must be releasing larger amounts of leptin than normal-weight people. You'd expect this high leptin level would lessen our desire for food. The problem is, it doesn't.

Why? The receptor sites for leptin are blocked by something, so the leptin cannot get in. Some researchers believe what's blocking the receptor site is a gene called SOCS-3.

It's believed that SOCS-3 is activated if we consume high-fat meals, or have higher levels of blood sugars and/or elevated insulin levels. Elevated blood insulin levels are found in 80 percent of obese adults as a result of fatty acids finding their way into cells; this prevents insulin from helping glucose enter cells. There's then a domino effect: Insulin resistance causes elevated blood-insulin levels, which prompts SOCS-3 to be produced, which leads to leptin resistance, which signals to us to eat more food-even as our fat cells make more and more leptin trying to stop us from doing so.

So, how do you make leptin work for you and not against you? Pharmaceutical companies have been trying for years to bottle up leptin into a pill, claiming it was the solution to the obesity epidemic. They thought the more leptin you give someone, the more sated they'd feel. They didn't realize that if you're leptin-resistant, more leptin is only going to make you more resistant. It's a dreadful cycle.

To make yourself more leptin-sensitive, begin by consuming a low-fat diet-but not an extremely low fat diet. Aim to eat about 10 grams of fat at each meal to keep you satiated. I refer to this as the 10-10-10 guideline. Also, aim to keep your blood sugars level. To do so, eat every 3 to 4 hours, limit fruit to one serving per meal, plus avoid simple sugar. Eating a balanced snack containing a little protein, fat and carbohydrates between meals is also key. 20/20 LifeStyles has a variety of protein bars that make great snacks!  You also need to exercise, as it reduces blood insulin and sugar levels. There's hope. Although losing weight is hard, as you shrink your fat stores, the more leptin-sensitive you will become.

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