Friday, May 11, 2012

Understanding Leptin (the Hunger Hormone) is Key to Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Leptin, also known as the hunger hormone, was discovered about 10 years ago and has totally changed our scientific understanding of metabolism and the body fat storage process in general.  Leptin is produced by fat cells, and it signals to your brain whether you should be hungry, eat and store more fat, or to increase metabolism and as a result release excess unnecessary body fat. 

Both insulin and leptin work together to control the quality of one's metabolism and, to a significant extent, the rate of metabolism via nervous system control.  Insulin and leptin are the major hormones regulating metabolism.


A problem with leptin arises when one becomes leptin resistant.  When this occurs, the brain does not properly receive leptin signals, which would normally make a person feel full and thus prevent overeating.  The causes of leptin resistance are known, as well as methods that work to restore its normal activity. 

Inactivity, drinking alcohol, and taking pharmaceutical drugs (like birth-control pills, steriods, and diuretics) all contribute to leptin resistance.  So too do diets high in sugars like white bread, pasta, cereals, doughnuts, sodas, white rice, etc.  When sugars are not burned immediately as energy, they create triglycerides.  High triglycerides block leptin from entering the brain and creating a sense of fullness.   The standard American diet itself, rich in these types of refined foods, predisposes people to overeat, even if they have the best of intentions to cut back on their intake.

Calorie restricted diets also interfere with leptin.  These diets' interference with leptin explains their lack of success for many over the long term- as well as why their tendency to cause "rebound" weight gain once the restrictive diet is over.

According to Dr. Neal Barnard, noted nutritional expert and researcher, the best ways to optimize or boost your leptin level and sensitivity include:

1. Following the Rule of 10 :  Take your ideal body weight and multiply by 10. This will give you the minimum amount of calories you need to eat each day.

2. Eating low fat whole foods:   Low fat foods will reduce overall fat which helps your Leptin work better.  Beans, rice and vegetables are good examples. 

3. Exercising:  A simple exercise routine such as walking or jogging 15-30 minutes per day will help your Leptin work better.


References:

"What you don't know about leptin can make you fat," interview with Dr. Rosedale by Dr. Mercola, www.mercola.com.

The Baby Boomer Diet, by Donna Gates.

Breaking the Food Seduction by Dr. Neal Barnard

1 comment:

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