When your eating habits create a mutinous revolt in your own body, it’s definitely time to make a change
Your eating habits can cause havoc in the body’s communication system that dictates metabolism and appetite. Consistent overeating confuses the efficient transmission of messages causing a breakdown that leads to weight gain and additional consequences, such as heart disease. Fat used to be viewed only as a storage place in the body for extra calories, however, we now know that it’s actually a hormone-producing endocrine organ.1 The fat that we moan and groan about when it accumulates on our thighs, buttocks and abdomen could ironically keep us lean: this white adipose tissue secretes the hormone leptin, which informs the brain about our levels of fat, telling us when to eat and when to stop eating.
A HEFTY PAUSE
Leptin is normally secreted during our circadian rhythm, with as many as 32 pulses of activity occurring over a 24-hour period.2 The highest levels are found during the first few hours of sleep, decreasing to the lowest in the morning. In obese people, the change in blood leptin levels is less significant than in lean people. One of the reasons for this is that an excess consumption of food has a negative impact on leptin’s ability to communicate adequately with the brain. This results in insulin, thyroid, epinephrine and leptin resistance, and weight gain.3
WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU!
If there’s leptin resistance, the brain doesn’t register signals to reduce appetite, leaving a person feeling constantly hungry. Normally, when you’ve eaten sufficiently, the brain receives a signal that leptin levels are high, and it increases metabolism and decreases appetite. Conversely, when your body needs food, the brain tells you to eat. When this process is inhibited by bad eating habits, your brain becomes deaf to these signals and therefore doesn’t know to tell you when to stop, and excess calories are sent to storage as fat. Increased levels of triglycerides (fat found in your blood) caused by overeating, have been linked to leptin resistance. This fat decreases the transport of leptin across the blood-brain barrier, preventing leptin from entering the brain.4
Leptin inhibits insulin secretion in the pancreas, and when your body is resistant to leptin, the pancreas isn’t able to sense its presence and keeps making insulin, leading to an excess and the possibility of insulin resistance – another cause of weight gain.5
Yet another cause of leptin-resistant weight gain is tied with epinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter that’s a prime factor in the body’s fight or flight response, increasing heart rate, constricting blood vessels and dilating air passages when the body senses danger. Epinephrine has short-term control of leptin and when the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated in quick bursts during moments of panic, leptin production is depressed. The brain uses epinephrine to stimulate metabolism in fat cells and, if the brain is repeatedly attempting to use this hormone to no effect, unusually high levels can occur and fat cells eventually become immune to it. This resistance leads to weight gain, specifically in the abdominal area, which is most often associated with reproductive organ cancer and heart disease.6 A resistance to leptin produces “false starvation”, slowing thyroid function even in overweight people.7 Leptin and thyroid resistance restricts the natural heat production in the body, so fat and calories aren’t efficiently burned away.
To ensure the body’s optimal functionality, it’s important to listen to the brain’s messages. However, if our bad habits inhibit the brain’s ability to communicate effectively, we can get stuck in a rut of silent rebellion. A lifestyle change, specifically in terms of eating habits, as well as supplementation, will greatly assist in getting your body back in line. While a diet high in carbohydrates and saturated fats is a definite no-no if you’re leptin resistant, a high good fat diet has shown successful results.8 However, nutrition is about balance, so you mustn’t ignore any of the important food groups in order to ensure equilibrium of appetite, food intake and energy.
PROTOCOL FOR DECREASING LEPTIN RESISTANCE
Irvingia extract (150-300mg twice daily)
Krill oil omega-3s (500mg twice daily)
Chromium (400mcg twice daily)
Green tea extract (150mg twice daily)
Resveratrol (100mg twice daily)
Diet: high in vegetables, low carbohydrates and lean protein.
- Trayburn P, Beattie J. Physiological role of adipose tissue: white adipose tissue as an endocrine and secretory organ. Proc Nutr Soc. 2001;60:329-39
- Radić R, Nikolić V, et al. Circadian rhythm of blood leptin level in obese and nonobese people. Coll Antropol. 2003;27:555-61
- Kalra S. Central leptin insufficiency syndrome: An interactive etiology for obesity, metabolic and neural diseases and for designing new therapeutic interventions. Peptides. Jan 2008;29(1):127-38
- Banks W, Coon A, et al. Triglycerides induce leptin resistance at the blood-brain barrier. Diabetes. 2004;53:1253-60
- Seufert J. Leptin effects on pancreatic beta-cell gene expression and function. Diabetes. 2004;53(1):152-8
- Zhang C, Rexrode K, et al. Abdominal Obesity and the Risk of All-Cause, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality. Sixteen Years of Follow-Up in US Women. Circulation. 2008;117:1658-67
- Huo L, Munzberg H, et al. Role of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 in regulation of hypothalamic trh gene expression by leptin. Endocrinology. 2004;145:2516-23
- Wiegle D, Cummings D, et al. Roles of Leptin and Ghrelin in the Loss of Body Weight Caused by Low Fat, High Carbohydrate Diet. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Apr 2003;88(4):1577-86