Leptin and Leptin Insensitivity

Leptin is a hormone released from the fat cells located in adipose tissues, sends signals to the hypothalamus in the brain. It helps regulate and alter long-term food intake and energy expenditure, not just from one meal to the next. The primary design of leptin is to help the body maintain its weight. It is known as the satiety hormone. It helps inhibit hunger and regulate energy balance, so the body does not trigger hunger responses when it does not need energy. Becoming insensitive to this hormones effects will result in increased hunger even though your body is producing more than adequate amounts.

“Just like with insulin and adrenaline, as leptin levels rise, our leptin receptors become desensitized to the hormone and we can develop leptin resistance”

–       Kevin Cann

A continual high calorie intake and/or enlarged adipose tissue stores (being overweight) leads to leptin insensitivity and causes our bodies to produce high levels of leptin. This is especially true if the high calorie intake is coming from mainly sugar or carbohydrates. How? You ask. It starts by consuming abnormally high calorie meals. This causes Leptin to be released in an effort to suppress hunger (to tell if you’re full/satisfied), but many continue to eat until they are stuffed. This over-consumption of food eventually, leads to becoming desensitized to the hunger suppressing effects of Leptin. This means our sensitivity to the effects of leptin is decreased, thus becoming Leptin insensitive.

How being insensitive to the effects of Leptin leads to Leptin resistance

A larger dose of leptin is produced to achieve the same effect as that of a smaller dose. This larger dose will continue to grow larger and larger, causing chronically high levels of leptin release. Until we reach a state of leptin resistance and our bodies cannot produce any higher amounts of this hunger suppressing hormone. The problem is not that we aren’t getting enough leptin, it’s that the brain doesn’t “see” that leptin is there.2 When the brain doesn’t receive the leptin signal, it erroneously thinks that the body is starving, even though it has more than enough energy stored. This makes our brain change our physiology and behavior in order to regain the fat that the brain thinks we’re missing. This happens in two ways, the first being the brain thinks we must eat to not starve to death. The second is the brain thinks we need to conserve energy in order to regain the fat the brain thinks we are missing.

 Why are high amounts of leptin in our bodies bad?

Leptin is pro-inflammatory, in other words it promotes inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation causes stress to our cells and promotes the production of free radicals, which cause a myriad of problems including obesity.1 Inflammation at the cellular level causes ectopic fat storage. Ectopic fat is a very unhealthy storage of body fat within internal organs, arteries, and muscle.

Avoid high Lectin foods, or prepare them correctly

If you think you may be insensitive to the effect of leptin or if you’d like to avoid becoming leptin resistant than you should start by avoiding consuming foods that are high in lectin. (Notice I wrote lectin and not leptin) Lectins are a form of protein found in nearly all plants and animals. They bind to the sugar molecules called polysaccharides that cover the surface of most cells in your body. In small amounts, lectins play important roles in body processes, including immune function and cell growth. Research shows they could even have a role in cancer therapy.5 However, in large amounts lectins create a magnitude of health problems related to inflammation mainly due to damage of the gut wall.  A naturally occurring lectin known as phytohaemagglutinin, is found in raw (meaning still hard) kidney beans. Phytohaemagglutinin will bind to the sugar coating on your red blood cells, which makes them stick together until you get abnormal clotting and only consuming a few can cause extreme nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. This happens unless you properly prepare these beans by soaking and/or cooking them. High lectin foods to avoid include legumes (beans) like kidney beans or soybeans that have not been properly soaked or sprouted to reduce their lectin content. Avoid any processed foods especially those that are high in fructose (refined sugar) such as candy bars, most protein and energy bars, and many granola bars.  Also grains such as wheat should be avoided unless properly fermented (sourdough) or sprouted (Ezekiel sprouted bread).

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116179/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23359004
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10215564
  4. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2281.1998.00129.x/full
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25730388