May 27


Are You Affected by Leptin Resistance?

By Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS, LDN

May 27, 2019

minutes read time


Feeling like you’re hungry all the time? Or having trouble losing weight even though you feel like you’re doing everything right? Have you thought about leptin resistance?

I hear this so much today. So much! When someone’s hormones are perfectly balanced and there are no issues, simple changes to the diet will induce weight loss. But for many, that’s easier said than done.

I hate when people say weight is a matter of calories in vs calories out. No. Nope. Nuh-uh. No way. Not happening. Weight is so much more complex than that. Hormones can cause weight gain even on low-calorie diets. Inflammation in the digestive tract can cause water retention. An imbalance in gut flora can cause excess nutrient absorption leading to weight gain.

I think you get the picture here. Hormones like leptin and insulin can cause weight gain. Leptin can cause overeating as well. So, it’s not always your fault.

In this blog, we’ll explore what leptin resistance is and what you can do about it. Let’s dive in!

What is Leptin?

We have a gazillion hormones in the body. Okay…not REALLY a gazillion. But we have a ton. And leptin is just one of them.

Most have never heard of leptin. But those that haven’t heard of it may have some issues with the regulation of the hormone itself. Leptin is our satiety hormone. It tells us when the body no longer needs food. And it’s designed to help regulate weight.

Leptin is stored and released by adipose tissues aka fat cells. The more adipose tissue you have, the more leptin you have in your body. When you lose weight, your leptin levels drop.

When Leptin is working correctly, it won’t tell you that you’re hungry when you have excess adipose tissue. Fancy, right? It stops you from putting on weight.

Instead of using food for fuel, leptin tells the body to use fat for fuel. In a perfect world, this would be amazing. But, like anything else today, the process can become broken. When leptin doesn’t function the way that it should, it’s called leptin resistance.

Leptin and Insulin Resistance

I’ve talked about insulin resistance before. Specifically, how stress creates insulin resistance. We release insulin anytime we have sugar in our blood. Essentially, anytime we consume any form of carbs…good, bad, or otherwise.

When we release insulin over and over and over again, the body becomes desensitized to its actions. The same thing happens with leptin as well. As you gain weight, you gain more leptin as well.

But when you have a constant state of leptin in the bloodstream, the body becomes desensitized to its purpose. Just like insulin. You can develop leptin resistance in the same manner that you develop insulin resistance.

Your body doesn’t see it so you continue to feel hungry even though you may have just eaten. And your body doesn’t switch into fat burning mode because you consistently have food in your system to be used as fuel.

Just because you push through the hunger and lose weight doesn’t mean you’ve overcome leptin resistance. With reduced weight (aka fat), you have lower levels of leptin. But you didn’t repair the leptin resistance issue. You’ll still feel hungry all the time.

Leptin Resistance Symptoms

There is a test for leptin. Just like there’s a test for insulin as well. I know that most doctors don’t check either. I do like to see both in clients I suspect have either leptin or insulin resistance.

You can make changes without having a test. Cleaning up the diet, getting better sleep, and reducing stress are key. Just like anything else, these symptoms can be related to other issues as well.

Here are the most common symptoms of leptin resistance:

Inability to lose weight

Holding weight around the midsection

High triglycerides

Feeling like you’re constantly hungry

Having a lot of stress in your life

Trouble keeping weight off (yo-yoing)

Again, you can get this checked at your next physical. Just ask for your fasting insulin and leptin levels.

What You Can Do

Aside from losing weight to reduce your leptin levels, repairing the process is key. There are a few things that cause leptin resistance. They are:


Free Fatty Acids

High Leptin Levels

Reducing inflammation is key for anyone. Pinpointing the source of inflammation can be tricky. It requires someone to take a good look at how your body is functioning. A thorough nutrition session with labs is always a good starting place.

Free fatty acids can impair the signaling of leptin to the brain. Fatty acids are meant to be inside the cells to work their magic. However, in some, they stay in the blood. This causes symptoms of a low-fat diet, even though you might consume plenty of fat. An amino acid that helps shuttle fats into the cells is l-carnitine. If you’re vegan, l-carnitine is pretty scarce in the diet.

And having high leptin levels can cause leptin resistance. I know, it’s like a vicious cycle. Diet is your biggest asset. It’s the number one thing you can change to really get control of leptin resistance. Supplementation can be helpful. Berberine has been shown to reduce leptin and insulin resistance. Proceed with caution though. Berberine interacts with quite a few medications.

Cutting dairy, sugar, and gluten is a great start. And, as always, maximizing your vegetable intake is key. The better your diet, the more likely you’ll be able to overcome leptin resistance.

In the comments, let me know if you think you’re battling leptin resistance or both leptin and insulin resistance.

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