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Understanding The Science Behind Leptin Resistance

What is leptin and what does it do?

Leptin is a hormone secreted from fat cells that helps to regulate body weight. Its discovery in 1994 caused a lot of excitement as scientists hoped they could use it to help people control their weight. The name leptin is derived from the Greek word ‘leptos’ meaning thin. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘Fat Controller’. It is also known as the “satiety hormone” or the “starvation hormone.”

Leptin performs several essential functions related to fertility, immunity and brain function. However, the most important one is targeted towards your hypothalamus. Leptin’s main role is long-term regulation of energy. When you have enough fat stored, leptin is supposed to tell your brain that you don’t need to eat and can burn calories at a normal rate. Thus, leptin system evolved to keep us from starving or overeating.

What is leptin resistance?

Leptin resistance occurs when your brain stops acknowledging the hormone’s signal. What this means is that you will feel hungry despite having enough leptin and stored energy in your body. Your brain will tell you that you’re starving even though your body is full. Consequently, you’re more likely to suffer from overeating which will eventually lead to obesity. According to research, leptin resistance is now considered to be one of the main biological contributors to obesity. In some cases, the body already has high levels of leptin which may cause leptin resistance.

Causes of leptin resistance

While it may be hard to pinpoint the exact reasons, numerous potential mechanisms behind leptin resistance have been identified.

Let’s take a look at what might be causing leptin resistance:

Inflammation: Inflammatory signalling in your hypothalamus is likely an important cause of leptin resistance in both animals and humans.

Free fatty acids: Having elevated free fatty acids in your bloodstream may increase fat metabolites in your brain and interfere with leptin signalling.

Having high leptin: Having elevated levels of leptin in the first place seems to cause leptin resistance as well

How do you know if you’re leptin resistant?

Millions of people across the globe are leptin resistant but a huge chunk of them don’t even know that.

The typical unhealthy diet in modern times is a gigantic factor. Consuming tons of sugar, grains and processed foods causes your fat cells to flood your body with leptin. Turn this into a regular habit, and the body adapts by becoming resistant to leptin.

The process of becoming resistant to leptin works similarly to insulin resistance. It leaves you feeling sick, tired, and hungry all the time – even when you’re eating way more than your body needs.

Let’s take a look at a few signs to determine if you are leptin resistant:

1) You’re Overweight

This is probably the easiest one to determine. Step on a scale. If you’re 7 kilograms overweight or more – and a good portion of that fat is accumulated on your belly, you’re almost certainly leptin resistant.

2) You Are Not Eating Enough

If you’re trying to clean up your diet and lose weight fast, it’s tempting to drastically cut your caloric intake. However, any time of extreme calorie restriction can backfire, causing your body to adapt by becoming even more resistant to leptin.

This is because after a sudden caloric change, your body goes into self-preservation mode. It does everything in its power to hang on to stored fat.

3) Your Food Cravings Are Constant and Unending

If you’re always on the lookout for another snack to tide you over until meal time, this could be another indicator. Out of control food cravings (especially cravings for junk food) are common symptoms of leptin resistance.

Steps To Restore Leptin Sensitivity

Making smarter choices in your lifestyle is crucial to get your leptin sensitivity back on track. Here are a few basic steps to help you out:

1) Leave Behind Grains, Sugars & Processed Foods

Replace these foods with more “slow burn” energy found in nutrient-dense, whole foods will help you avoid nasty leptin spikes that end in leptin resistance. Instead, focus on organic vegetables and healthy fats like avocados.

2) Avoid Snacking

It’s okay to grab a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts every now and then to make a rumbling stomach go away. However, when you’re fighting leptin resistance, it’s important to try to limit snacking as much as possible.

Try spacing out your meals so there are at least four hours between them, and don’t let yourself snack.

3) Exercise

Getting your heart rate up is extremely important. Endurance training like jogging, cycling and other aerobic exercises are helpful. However, you should consider adding bit of resistance training to your routine as well. Lifting weights can help increase leptin sensitivity. This makes it easier for your body to tell your brain when it’s full and help you lose weight.


The priority, in this blog, is to supply the reader with clear and unambiguous information. However, neither The New Me nor Gagan Dhawan makes promises, or guarantees regarding the completeness of the information found here. The content is not a replacement for advice of a licensed professional. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the writer’s.

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