Leptin and Weight loss: How the Fat Hormone Affects Hunger and Metabolism

Hunger has been a real curiosity to me, mainly because I have been overweight for some time and even though my body obviously gets enough calories and has many to spare I still feel hungry and want to eat. Hunger is a common condition that everyone in the world can understand. However, for many people, hunger becomes an insatiable urge that causes them to eat well beyond the amount of food that their bodies actually need. For this reason, understanding the factors that trigger hunger in the body, which I discussed in the post “What Causes Hunger Pangs” is an area of science that is of particular interest in the weight loss industry. One area of growing interest lately has been in determining the exact role that the hormone leptin plays in regulating metabolism and hunger.

Leptin, a hormone that is produced by fat cells, may be regulated with a low-carb diet and better sleep.

Leptin, a hormone that is produced by fat cells, may be naturally regulated with a low-carb diet and better sleep.

Overeating can thwart any diet endeavor. If you can not control your eating, you can not control the amount of calories that you are going to consume. It might seem simple, but will power is only going to take you so far. You need help and understanding to keep going. Emotional eating is a huge problem for many, and is something of great concern. Another factor to add to the mix is also a hormone called leptin that can hinder your efforts to lose weight.

Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells and found in the blood plasma. It is believed that leptin helps to regulate hunger in the body. If you have only a small amount of body fat, leptin levels in your body will be low and will trigger you to be hungry. This is a survival strategy your body has developed, but new research suggests that this hormonal trigger does not always work as it should. There may also be a link between leptin, smoking, and overeating, but this is something that is still being studied. Leptin may be the reason why some overeat and gain weight when they have quit smoking (a good article to read as well is “Weight Gain When You Quit Smoking“). If this is found to be true then leptin supplements may be able to help prevent those who quit smoking from overeating.

As you may know, your body turns foods into glucose, which then fuels all cells and systems of the body. There is a connection there between glucose, leptin, and hunger. Glucose triggers insulin, and it also triggers the release of leptin in the fat cells. These both regulate how much food your body thinks it needs. If there is a lot of extra insulin going through the body, the body wants to eat more. The same can be said with leptin, but the opposite is true. If there is not enough, it thinks more food is needed. As you can imagine, this can be a problem if either is out of whack. In people who are obese or overweight, their fat cells have been turning out high levels of leptin that the body has now become resistant to, also known as leptin resistance. This situation is very similar to chronically high levels of insulin causing insulin resistance.

There is some thought that leptin may also play a role in regulating metabolism. If it has control of hunger, it makes sense that it might also work with metabolism. At times, the rate of your metabolism is in direct relation to how much you are eating and when you are eating, along with other factors like age and water intake. If lower levels of leptin trigger hunger, it might also mean your metabolism is stunted because the body feels it has to conserve what body fat it has stored away.

The big question is what can we do to help control leptin levels and perhaps in turn control hunger and improve metabolism. There are some suggestions that the eating plan associated with low carb diets helps the body produce the right amount of leptin, but more studies are needed. There is also quite a bit or research that suggests a good night’s sleep is a key to controlling leptin, as too little sleep or poor sleep may cause leptin levels to fall, which triggers hunger (refer to the articles “Sleep and Weight Loss” and “Sleep Apnea and Weight Gain” for more information about leptin and sleep). Of course, if you can overcome those feelings of hunger, the best way to help your body regulate leptin levels is by losing weight and getting more exercise. In the future it will not be suprising at all if new weight loss medications are made to control the affects of leptin in the body, thus helping to control hunger. Until then it’s back to relying on will power and making sure to include enough protein and fiber in your diet to thwart those pesky hunger pangs.

Other Related Posts You May Find Interesting: “How Dehydration Affects Metabolism“, “How Fiber Helps Weight Loss“, “Foods that Stabilize Blood Sugar” and “How Protein Curbs Hunger“.


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1 comment to Leptin and Weight loss: How the Fat Hormone Affects Hunger and Metabolism

  • Werner

    Great article!
    I have been smoking 14 years and found it most helpful to have a glass of water every time i felt like a smoke after quitting, not only did it take the craving away but it also suppressed my weight gain because the lack of smoking.
    keep up the useful information

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