How to increase leptin: When it comes to losing weight, fat, carbohydrates and fat are given the most attention. However, most of us tend to overlook the importance of hormones, especially leptin. Leptin plays an important role in managing weight.
Often referred to as the satiety hormone, leptin is directly connected to your weight and the amount of fat there is in your body. If the levels of leptin are low, it causes an inability to feel full which leads to feeling hungry all the time. What’s more, leptin resistance is a common occurrence which prevents your body from effectively responding to the hormone.
What is leptin?
Leptin is a hormone produced by the fat or adipose cells of the body. The main function of the hormone is to regulate the body’s energy levels by sending signals to the hypothalamus, a part of your brain to help maintain a healthy body weight.
When the leptin level decreases, the brain gets a signal that you are hungry and that you should eat food. In addition, changes in the percentage of fat in your body is directly linked with the amount of leptin in your body – because leptin is stored in fat cells.
Your leptin levels increase if you gain body fat. Similarly, if the percentage of fat in your body decreases when you lose weight, leptin levels also go down.
What’s the difference between leptin and ghrelin?
Ghrelin, also known as the “hunger hormone” is primarily produced by the stomach and small intestine. The main function of the hormone is to stimulate appetite which causes you to eat more and store more fat. Ghrelin plays a pivotal role in releasing insulin and keeps your heart health in check.
While it may make sense to think that obese individuals have higher levels of ghrelin which causes them to eat more, it is actually the complete opposite. The levels of ghrelin are actually not higher in people who are overweight. Overweight individuals are just more sensitive to the hormone. On the contrary, they are sensitive to the effects of leptin.
The two hormones actually work together to maintain your body weight. In a healthy body ghrelin ensures that you do not forget to eat and lose too much weight. Whereas leptin tells you when you are full and that you should stop eating.
However, if your body does not respond to ghrelin and leptin, it can disrupt the signals being sent to your brain, causing you to feel hungry more often than normal.
What causes a decrease in leptin levels?
When your body burns more energy than it is taking in, for example, when you are on a weight loss diet or working out, causing you to lose body fat – this causes a decrease in the levels of leptin in your body.
Leptin is mainly produced by the fat cells, so when your body does not have enough fat, it physically cannot produce the same amount of leptin. Your brain is no longer getting signals that you are full and that you should stop eating.
This causes an insatiable hunger even when it is time to eat, making losing weight almost impossible. While you are burning extra body fat and losing weight, the fat in your body is also decreasing, causing a decrease in the production of leptin hormone.
The leaner you are, the less leptin your body has, meaning your appetite will only increase in the long run.
It is quite common for people to go on a diet and lose weight for the first few weeks, however, bounce back and even gain more weight because of insatiable hunger.
This is because of the changes in your leptin levels. In addition to this, testosterone, thyroid hormone, cold temperatures and fasting also reduce leptin levels.
Leptin Resistance and how to increase leptin
Low levels of leptin are not necessarily the problem. An inability of your body to effectively respond to leptin also plays an important role in weight gain. Leptin resistance is a condition in which your body’s sensitivity to leptin decreases.
Your body is not sending signals to the brain that you have enough fat and that your energy needs are fulfilled so you should stop eating. When the brain is not receiving these signals, you do not only lose appetite, but your brain also decreases energy levels to conserve energy.
As a result, you feel less motivated to exercise, which is a key aspect for maintaining a healthy weight, and you end up feeling hungry more often.
Causes of leptin resistance and how to increase leptin
One of the main causes of leptin resistance is obesity. Even though people who are obese have more fat cells in their body, as a result higher leptin levels compared to lean people, their body’s ability to send signals to the brain is disrupted.
The high level of inflammation in the body makes it difficult for leptin to bind to the leptin receptors in the brain. When you have high level of fat in the body, especially around the belly, the fat produces cytokines, which are inflammatory compounds that circulate through the blood and block the effects of leptin, causing leptin resistance.
In conclusion, when the levels of leptin in your body are consistently high it produces leptin resistance.
Leptin resistance and diet
Increasing the amount of leptin in your body does not have much to do with how your body responds to leptin. In addition to this, the food you eat also has a direct impact on how well your body responds to leptin. According to a study1, white pasta, white bread and sugar may cause leptin resistance and a diet rich in fiber-rich carbohydrates, for example, non-starchy vegetables can cause a decrease in both leptin and insulin resistance.
In addition to this, diets that are high in protein and fat also increase leptin sensitivity, as a result, improving leptin resistance2. Protein also increases the levels of testosterone in addition to boosting the levels of leptin directly. Testosterone helps prevent leptin resistance by building muscle, helping you lose weight3.
Ways to keep leptin levels regulated
Increasing your daily intake of fiber by eating fiber-rich foods, such as, oatmeal, whole grains and legumes can help the brain release more leptin. Fiber makes you feel fuller and causes the intestinal tract to send a signal to the brain to release more leptin.
Limit consumption of fructose
Fructose, especially high-fructose corn syrups inhibit leptin receptors. The main culprit when it comes to leptin resistance is processed foods. Fructose is commonly used in cookies, sodas and other sugary snacks because of how inexpensive it is. The easiest way to limit your fructose intake is to cut down on processed foods and eat whole foods. Whole foods are foods that most closely resemble their natural state.
Add complex carbohydrates to your diet
Limit your intake of white, processed, sugary and refined carbohydrates, also known as simple carbohydrates. These cause an increase in the levels of insulin in your body, leading to insulin resistance. As a result, insulin resistance disrupts the production of leptin.
Complex carbohydrates, such as fruits and vegetables are a great source of fiber and water. Increasing your diet in complex carbohydrates will tell your brain that you are full without having a very high calorie intake. Adding brown rice, quinoa, pastas and oats in moderation will also help achieve this goal.
Have proteins for breakfast
Protein is not only a great source of fuel, but it also helps you feel fuller for longer. In addition to this, it also kickstarts your leptin levels. However, do not rely on cereals too often because they contain high amounts of lectin that can bind to leptin receptors and disrupt leptin’s ability to do its job.
Increase intake of omega 3
Increasing your intake of omega 3 fatty acids either with your diet or with the help of supplements can help increase leptin levels by supporting a healthy inflammatory response. Foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids include sardines and salmon.
The fatty acids increase your body’s sensitivity to leptin and make it more receptive.
Don’t restrict your calorie intake
If your body is not getting enough nutrients, it will start shutting down and disrupt the production of leptin hormone. This will cause your metabolism to slow down and decrease the production of leptin. Being at a healthy weight will help regulate your hormones.
Perform high intensity interval training
High intensity workouts stimulate secretions of human growth hormones. As a result, it boosts the fat burning mechanism and helps in regulating leptin levels. Exercising regularly is one of the biggest predictors of long-term weight management.
Although, this does not mean that you run 5 miles a day. Any exercise routine counts as long as you are consistent with it. it can be anything from walking to work to using the stairs instead of the elevator or just doing some jumping jacks while watching tv.
Get a good night’s sleep
Getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night is recommended. If your body is not getting enough rest, it will produce less leptin and more ghrelin, telling your body that you are hungry. In addition to this, your body starts producing ghrelin and not leptin.
According to a recent study, those who did not get good sleep at night had 15% lower leptin levels compared to those who did. This is because leptin levels typically rise during the sleep cycle4. Leptin is an important hormone for maintaining weight.
Keeping your leptin levels in a healthy range will help keep your body in the best shape in the longer run and help you manage your appetite.
Work on stress management
Stress increases the level of cortisol (stress hormone) in your body. Cortisol can make the brain less receptive to leptin. Stress affects everyone differently, however, if you are living in a constant state of stress, your goal body weight will become out of the question.
Stress does not only affect your metabolism, but it also raises the amount of blood sugar in your body. In addition to this, it triggers behavior patterns, such as, skipping workout sessions and eating comfort food that may not align with long-term goals.
Whether it’s taking a walk during your break from work or starting meditation, it is important to incorporate stress-management practices in your routine to help you stay calm and on track.
Cut down on alcohol to increase leptin
While you don’t completely have to cut down on alcohol to lose weight, it is important that you count your drinks. Set a limit on how much you are going to drink and make it a smaller one.
This is something that is easy to overdo without you realizing how many calories you are consuming. If you are eating healthy all day but having multiple drinks in the evening – you are undoing all your day’s hard work. It is important that you log your food and drinks, so you have an idea of how many calories you are consuming in a day.
Reaching your goal weight does not mean you have to give up on alcohol, however, being mindful of your drink choices can help you find a healthy balance.
Do supplements help with leptin resistance?
Most supplements that claim to regulate the levels of leptin in your body do not actually contain the hormone itself. While most supplements that are available in the market are labelled as “leptin pills”, they generally contain a mix of various nutrients that reduce inflammation, therefore, increase leptin sensitivity5.
Some ingredients the supplements include are alpha-lipoic acid6 and fish oil. Whereas others may contain conjugated linoleic acid7, soluble fiber and green tea extract.
There are many studies that involve weight loss supplements, however, their effect on improving leptin resistance still needs to be explored further. Researches have also shown that African mango has a positive effect on weight loss and leptin sensitivity.
It has been shown to decrease the levels of leptin, thereby, improving sensitivity8. Studies have also concluded that African mango helps with reducing weight and decreasing weight circumference9. However, there is a need for more research to conclude whether supplements help decrease leptin resistance.
You may think that losing weight is a personal project. Having a team of supporters can actually make a huge difference. Sign up with a daily or weekly individual group support to help you find a squad that will help motivate you to make healthier choices at the grocery store and plan workouts. This will help you hit your weight loss milestone sooner than you think!
1.Izadi, V., Saraf-Bank, S. and Azadbakht, L., 2014. Dietary intakes and leptin concentrations. ARYA atherosclerosis, 10(5), p.266.
2.Vasselli, J.R., Scarpace, P.J., Harris, R.B. and Banks, W.A., 2013. Dietary components in the development of leptin resistance.
3.Traish, A.M., 2014. Testosterone and weight loss: the evidence. Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity, 21(5), p.313.
4.Chaput, J.P., Després, J.P., Bouchard, C. and Tremblay, A., 2007. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin levels and increased adiposity: results from the Quebec family study. Obesity, 15(1), pp.253-261.
5.Sáinz, N., González-Navarro, C.J., Martínez, J.A. and Moreno-Aliaga, M.J., 2015. Leptin signaling as a therapeutic target of obesity. Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets, 19(7), pp.893-909.
6.Li, N., Yan, W., Hu, X., Huang, Y., Wang, F., Zhang, W., Wang, Q., Wang, X. and Sun, K., 2017. Effects of oral α‐lipoic acid administration on body weight in overweight or obese subjects: a crossover randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled trial. Clinical endocrinology, 86(5), pp.680-687.
7.Medina, E.A., Horn, W.F., Keim, N.L., Havel, P.J., Benito, P., Kelley, D.S., Nelson, G.J. and Erickson, K.L., 2000. Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation in humans: effects on circulating leptin concentrations and appetite. Lipids, 35(7), pp.783-788.
8.Ross, S.M., 2011. African mango (IGOB131): a proprietary seed extract of Irvingia gabonensis is found to be effective in reducing body weight and improving metabolic parameters in overweight humans. Holistic nursing practice, 25(4), pp.215-217.
9.Ngondi, J.L., Etoundi, B.C., Nyangono, C.B., Mbofung, C.M. and Oben, J.E., 2009. IGOB131, a novel seed extract of the West African plant Irvingia gabonensis, significantly reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight humans in a randomized double-blind placebo controlled investigation. Lipids in Health and Disease, 8(1), p.7.
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