Weight Management and the Role of Leptin

 
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By Emily Holler

If you’re concerned about your weight and considering dieting as an option, the bleak reality is that most people who diet and lose weight end up regaining the weight within 12 months.

Sadly we live in a society that regards slender, perfectly sculpted bodies as vastly more attractive than all the other types; and aggressive marketing campaigns for clothes, food, accessories and countless other products continually reinforce the need to attain a high level of physical perfection.

Although excessive weight often can indicate health issues that need to be addressed, weight loss alone should not be the only objective if our goals are health-centered. Forcing ourselves to abstain from food to achieve our weight goals is not an ideal course of action when the objective is to achieve optimum wellness.

It is commonly assumed that the best way to achieve weight loss is to cut back on food, and cut out foods with fat. The multitude of low-fat food items available to us is an indication that this is still a widely accepted mainstream approach. However it has long been established that good fats are an important component of a healthy diet, and that cutting out fat completely can even be detrimental to our health.

Eating less unhealthy foods and replacing them with a smaller intake of nutrient dense, unprocessed foods is one potentially effective approach, however the fact that many of us make these dietary changes only to be frustrated by limited results is an indicator that there is more to it than simply going on a diet.

From a scientific perspective, there is a much more informed and effective way to approach weight loss while maintaining a focus on health. Perhaps you have heard of a hormone called Leptin. Leptin is the hormone that tells us we’re full after eating and therefore inhibits our hunger. Leptin is opposed by the actions of the hormone Ghrelin, the 'hunger hormone’.

Both of these hormones act on receptors in the hypothalamus area of the brain to regulate our appetite. The more body fat we have, the greater the level of leptin in our body and when we restrict our caloric intake the levels decrease. Having sufficient leptin is essential if we are to feel a sense of satiety after eating. Otherwise we will feel the need to eat compulsively, and that’s a surefire way to gain weight.

The way leptin works is it’s produced in the fat tissues of the body and then secreted into the circulatory system where it eventually reaches the hypothalamus. Leptin tells the hypothalamus that we have enough fat so we can eat less or stop eating. So essentially the more fat you have, the more leptin you make; and the less fat you have, the less you make, so the hungrier you will be. The more leptin the better if you want to achieve weight loss.

A little known fact is that people who struggle to lose weight and those who suffer from obesity may have developed a problem called leptin resistance. This condition is often present in common forms of obesity arising from over-nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle. In this instance, despite the fat producing adequate leptin, the messages aren’t getting through to the brain. It may even have the opposite effect and continue to trigger feelings of hunger. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken somehow.

Leptin resistance could also be related to a number of other body systems. Leptin resistance is similar to insulin resistance in that they have similar signalling pathways and both types of resistance tend to occur together in obese people. Interestingly, leptin resistance is compounded by high insulin and high triglycerides. There is some evidence to suggest that circadian dysfunction may also induce leptin resistance. Hypothyroidism has been associated with leptin resistance. The sedentary lifestyle also plays a part by triggering leptin resistance when leptin receptors are actually reduced in human skeletal muscle. Inflammation in the hypothalamus can also be associated with the condition.

The good news is that we can undergo a ‘Leptin Reset’ to improve our leptin sensitivity and restore the healthy function of this hormonal response in our body. The following actions would form an effective treatment plan for those suffering from this condition:
*Pesca-Paleo diet. A paleo inspired diet with seafood being the predominant protein source forms an excellent dietary guideline for this condition;
*Having a consistent eating routine, in which meals are consumed at the same time every day is very important;
*Exercise (specifically resistance training) acts as a leptin sensitiser and could be used to enhance leptin signalling in human skeletal muscle;
*Improve insulin sensitivity;
*Decrease triglycerides if necessary;
*Decrease homocysteine if required;
*Targeted anti-inflammatory therapies may be warranted for hypothalamic    inflammation. Consider curcumin (an extract of turmeric) and saffron;         
*Address circadian dysfunction, screen for sleep issues and treat with melatonin if warranted;
*HCG drops are a treatment being used at The Health Lodge with excellent results. The drops provide the body with a louder hormonal ‘voice’ than leptin, which signals the body to burn fat stores while resetting leptin levels. Patients permanently lose 8–15 kgs over 21–40 days with this approach however it’s important to work with an experienced practitioner for guidance.

If you are overweight or obese and can’t seem to lose weight no matter what you do, then consider making an appointment with one of our specialist team members who can assess you for leptin resistance and formulate an individual treatment plan.