Leptin: What Is Leptin And Leptin Resistance

There’s more to understanding obesity and weight management, than nutrition and exercise. Hormones, play a significant role in your body composition, especially as you age. Leptin is a hormone that is found in the adipose tissue that play a significant role in weight management over time. It controls hunger, by signaling satiety or feelings of fullness. Leptin resistance, can have an effect on weight gain

What Is Leptin

Leptin is a peptide hormone released from white adipose tissue (body fat) by the ob gene. Leptin regulates appetite by controlling feelings of fullness, as well as neuroendocrine function, and energy homeostasis.

Leptin is comprised of 146 amino acids and produced through mRNA synthesis [R]. Structurally, leptin is similar to proinflammatory cytokines.

How Does Leptin Work, What Does Leptin Do

Leptin’s function pertains to regulating food intake and energy expenditure. Its principal site of action is within the central nervous system in the brain, specifically the brainstem and hypothalamus.

Leptin exerts immediate effects, by regulating appetite. Through the LR or obRb-receptor binding in the hypothalamus, leptin activates a neuronal circuit, which includes anorexigenic (i.e. appetite-diminishing) and orexigenic (i.e. appetite-stimulating) neuropeptides to control food intake [R].

Leptin essentially tells your brain when it has enough fat, to efficiently utilize stored energy from fat reserves.

As the amount of adipose tissue decreases, the amount of leptin produced and crossing the blood-brain barrier decreases and vice versa.

If the CNS senses a decline in leptin, it signals as an energy deficit, and triggers a cascade of reactions involving several other hormones to help the body with starvation. The CNS will trigger hunger, while also promoting energy-sparing neuroendocrine and autonomic mechanisms.

Leptin is essentially a catalyst, for the body’s transition into starvation mode. On the flip side, if food intake increases and levels of white adipose tissue (WAT) becomes excessive, there is a concurrent rise in leptin levels. Leptin promotes signals to the brain to reduce foot intake, and increased energy expenditure to counteract the energy surplus.

What is Leptin Resistance

Leptin resistance describes a condition in which your body does not respond to leptin hormone signals. Complete leptin deficiency, leads to obesity as there is no signal communicated of when to stop eating [R].

The leptin system controls us from starving and from overeating. Those with high leptin levels, also store more body fat. With leptin resistance, those who are obese should be getting signals to naturally limit their food intake. The brain should know there is plenty of stored energy via body fat. However, when leptin signals do not work, it leads to overeating and obesity.

This results in eating more, as well as reduced energy expenditure. Thus the underlying cause of obesity, in addition to diet and exercise, could be a hormonal defect.  

However, that is not to say that weight gain, is caused from leptin resistance. Leptin resistance occurs due to evolving dietary habits. The only way this can be reversed, is through incorporating healthy foods into a well-rounded diet and consistent exercise.

Eating more protein and avoiding highly processed foods that cause inflammation, will help naturally lower leptin levels and help reset your body and metabolism, for leptin to work efficiently.

What Are Normal Leptin Levels

Normal ranges of leptin for males and females are described below

  • Males 0.5 - 12.5 ng/mL.
  • Females 0.5 - 15.2 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).

High levels of leptin (hyperleptinemia) leads to obesity, and cause leptin resistance. Other conditions associated with hyperleptinemia, include

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NASH)
  • Depression
  • Rabson- Mendenhall syndrome

Leptin and Leptin Resistance: Takeaway

Diet and exercise remain the two most important factors, for weight management. Introducing a personalized meal plan, consisting of anti-inflammatory foods, with consistent exercise, will help reduce leptin levels and body fat, to have better hormonal function and hunger control. If you’re not sure where to start, hire a certified nutrition coach. They’ll take all the guess-work out of your diet and create a program that will work for you and your goals.


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