Master Your Leptin Hormone For Weight Loss And Longevity

by admin on July 13, 2014

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Homo sapiens domestico fragilis. Photo credit: FBellon on Flickr

My homeland of America is certainly dealing with an epidemic of obesity.  Half of everyone I see is overweight.  Our modern environment is, without a doubt, to blame. Interestingly, though, one hormone, leptin, is tied to both weight gain and degenerative diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Indeed, it is our modern lifestyle that is causing leptin issues, thus causing obesity and disease.  If we can bring our leptin back to its natural function, obesity and degenerative disease would not be an issue in our culture.

What is Leptin?

Leptin or the “satiety hormone” is a hormone that is actually created in fat cells. Leptin is created in the adipocytes (fat cells) for the purpose regulating the amount of fat stored in the body. The first way it accomplishes this is by telling us that we are full when we eat. When our stomach is filled, leptin is released from the adipocytes where it then travels to the hypothalamus in the brain, making us feel full [1]. It gives us that sickly bloated feeling that removes fork from hand. Leptin can also help to keep the body lean by allowing the body to utilize its own fat stores as an energy source, it regulates energy expenditure [2]. Leptin is still being studied and we do not fully understand its complete function.

Discovery of Leptin

In the 1990’s scientists discovered that daily leptin injections reduced the body weight of obese mice by 30% in just two weeks [3]. The scientists believed that they had forever solved weight loss, human studies were immediately underway as a result. To their disappointment, leptin injections brought no results in humans. This was no surprise as obese humans had already been studied to have very high levels of leptin. In fact, the fatter you are, the more leptin will be found in your bloodstream. So why is leptin not doing its job in obese humans? A hormone, whose function is to keep the body composition ideal, fails even at high levels? What is the answer?

Leptin Resistance – The Answer

The answer to the leptin/obesity puzzle is a similar answer. Let us think of type 2 diabetes, which is really just insulin resistance. The individual consumes so much carbohydrates that insulin levels are constantly maxed out. Eventually these high insulin levels burnout the insulin receptors. Now insulin cannot do its job, blood sugar remains high and the individual becomes a type 2 diabetic.

This exact scenario is playing out in obese individuals with high leptin. The individuals leptin levels were high even before they became overweight. As time passed leptin had to keep maxed out to prevent weight gain. Eventually leptin receptors are burnt out, this is when leptin stops working and the body fat is packed on. Now an snowball begins rolling. With more body fat comes more leptin and thus more leptin resistance. It is understandable why weight loss is so difficult.

What is less well known is that leptin resistance, which causes obesity, is the same issue causing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke and dementia. How?

How Leptin Resistance is Killing Western Civilization

So leptin resistance causes a snowball effect, we know that. The less responsive the leptin receptors, the more weight is gained. The more weight is gained, the more leptin is released. The more leptin, the less responsive the leptin receptors. The cycle continues on. So how exactly does this cause disease?

When we are leptin resistant, there are two big effects that we must understand:

1. Fatty acid oxidation declines. Basically we are not burning fat anymore.

2. Adipocytes (fat cells) are less able to absorb fatty acids from the blood.

Number 2 is very important because this load of fatty acids in the blood causes insulin resistance. Now that insulin resistant cells cannot absorb glucose, the blood sugar rises. The liver tries to protect the body by converting this blood glucose into more free fatty acids. Now we have more fat stores (adipocytes), more leptin and more leptin resistance. The cycle of obesity and disease continues.

The deeper this cycle goes, the higher the blood sugar and triglycerides. This causes inflammation which raises an inflammatory marker in the blood called CRP. One big issue with CRP is that it binds to leptin and does not allow it to cross the blood-brain barrier. Now leptin cannot do its job in the brain. This once more contributes to the leptin resistance cycle and raises inflammation even more. This is where the high rate of chronic degenerative disease comes as inflammation is the cause of heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and cancer. To avoid this, leptin resistance must be reversed. By the way if you are wondering, “Am I leptin resistant?” If you have any extra body fat, the answer is yes.

The Solution! How We Can Reverse Leptin Resistance

For obese individuals, reversing leptin resistance is going to be a marathon, but it is possible. Think of how long it took to become unhealthy and obese. It was a lifetime of poor lifestyle choices. Now, months, even years need to be spend living well and healthy to return to baseline. One step at a time is best, otherwise the change is too overwhelming. So let us get into the steps.

Low Glycemic Eating: This one is huge. If big insulin spikes can be avoided with each meal, leptin resistance will gradually recede. I use three strategies to avoid insulin spikes that will work even with a sugary meal.

1. Slow the digestion of carbs with fiber. Hands down chia seeds are king here. Put chia seeds in a cup and cover with ten times the amount of water. Chia has so much soluble fiber that it will absorb all the water and gel up. Consume 1-3 tablespoons of this gel before every meal and the glycemic index of foods will be dramatically decreased. The great thing is that chia is also a super food. Chia, by weight, has 800% more omega 3 (ALA) fats than salmon (EPA & DHA), 325% more fiber than oatmeal, 30% more antioxidants than blueberries, 1,500% more magnesium than broccoli, 200% more potassium than bananas and 300% more iron than spinach.

2. Inhibit digestive enzyme that breaks down carbs. Nature provides us with nutrients that will actually inhibit the enzymes in our digestive tract that digest carbs. This prevents the carbs from our food from dumping rapidly into our bloodstream. There are two enzymes that can be inhibited, glucosidase (for simple sugar breakdown) and amylase (for starch breakdown). There are a number of natural glucosidase and amylase inhibitors, the one most used throughout human history for this purpose is a plant called gymnema sylvestre, which inhibits both enzymes. This herb now has many scientific studies showing its powerful hypoglycemic effects.

3. Maximize insulin sensitivity. Nature also provides many nutrients which synergize with insulin, allowing less insulin to do more. This is very beneficial in leptin resistance. Cinnamon is the most famous herb used to increase insulin sensitivity. In fact cinnamon has been shown to enhance glucose metabolism 20 fold.

This was a very brief description on how to control blood sugar naturally. To go deeper into this rabbit hole, check out my e-book Herbs For Diabetes.

IMPROVE SLEEP: Sleep is incredibly important for leptin function and overall health.In our modern age there are so many obstacles to sleep. Here are some strategies.

Light exposure. Make sure to get at least a half an hour outside in the morning, sunny or cloudy. The morning sun will set your circadian rhythm on the right sleep/wake cycle. Just as important, no screen time after sun down. After the sun goes down, no TV watching, no looking into your phone screen and no computer time. These blue light shut off melatonin production which is a sure way to ruin sleep onset, duration and quality. The lights in your home should be warm red lights as cool blue lights inhibit melatonin.

Do not eat right at bedtime. Digesting a meal will interrupt sleep, especially carbs and proteins. If you have a hard time sleeping on an empty stomach, take 1-3 tablespoons of coconut oil before bed, this will prevent hunger alertness without disturbing sleep.

Exercise daily. Exercise increases body temperature, post exercise, the body temperature drops, inducing sleep. Exercise also ensures healthy sleep by decreasing arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Also, if your circadian rhythm is off, exercise can act to correct it when used at the proper time. High intensity exercise seems very promising, though simply walking has been studied to help sleep significantly [5].

ANTI INFLAMMATORY DIET AND LIFESTYLE: Both must be tailored with the goal of reducing inflammation, and C-reactive protein (CRP) which is a by product of inflammation. High CRP and inflammation are major contributors to leptin resistance. Briefly, here is how to tailor diet and lifestyle to lower CRP.

Diet should be anti-inflammatory. This means eating much less omega 6 fatty acid vegetable oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil and safflower seed oil. Also consume nuts in moderation as they are extremely high in omega 6 fats. To balance the omega 6 and lower inflammation, consume more healthy omega 3 fats from clean seafoods, chia seeds and omega 3 algal oil supplements. (I do not consider flax seed an ideal daily food source.)

Stress, unchecked, is deadly in the long term. It causes leptin resistance in more than one way. First it stimulates the stress hormone cortisol, which causes overeating, greatly contributing to leptin  resistance. More directly, cortisol simply interferes with leptin function, causing leptin resistance. Meditation, yoga and qigong are just a few extremely effective cortisol/stress lowering tools. Herbal adaptogenic medicines are also very effective and have been studied to lower cortisol. To name a few adaptogens: schizandra, gynostemma, holy basil and eleuthero.

SUMMARY

Master leptin and you master the number one cause of disease and obesity in our modern age. If you are overweight or in an inflammatory disease state it will take time and change. Fear not, if you were able to become unwell, you will certainly be able to become well again. ~Rewild Thyself

 

REFERENCES

1. Sahu A. Leptin signaling in the hypothalamus: emphasis on energy homeostasis and leptin resistance. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2003 Dec;24(4):225-53.

2. Wang MY, Orci L, Ravazzola M, Unger RH. Fat storage in adipocytes requires inactivation of leptin’s paracrine activity: implications for treatment of human obesity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2005 Dec 13;102(50):18011-6.

3. Halaas JL, Gajiwala KS, Maffei M, et al. Weight-reducing effects of the plasma protein encoded by the obese gene. Science. 1995 Jul 28;269(5223):543-6.

4. Kraegen EW, Cooney GJ. Free fatty acids and skeletal muscle insulin resistance. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2008 Jun;19(3):235-41.

5. Passos GS, Poyares D, Santana MG, D’Aurea CV, Youngstedt SD, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Effects of moderate aerobic exercise training on chronic primary insomnia. Sleep Med. 2011;12(10):1018-27.

 

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