Leptin Resistance Fact Sheet

Is resistance to this appetite-controlling hormone responsible for your cravings and weight gain?

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Reboot Your Hormones, Pt 2 (3:55)

What is leptin and how does it work?
Leptin is a hormone that plays a crucial role in appetite and weight control. It is thought to have at least two major functions. First, it crosses the blood-brain barrier and binds to receptors in the appetite center in the brain, regulating brain cells that tell you how much to eat. Second, it increases sympathetic nervous system activity, which stimulates fatty tissue to burn energy.

What is leptin resistance?
Studies in mice have shown that giving animals leptin reduces overeating and obesity. However, many obese humans have been shown to have high amounts of leptin circulating in the blood, but it doesn't seem to affect appetite or energy expenditure. This is termed "leptin resistance," because even though the body has more than enough leptin in it, it doesn't respond to it the way it's supposed to.

Why does leptin resistance happen?
While the definitive cause of leptin resistance isn't known, there are two main hypotheses. The first is that leptin in the blood is for some reason not reaching the right targets to control appetite. The second is that the receptors that leptin binds to stop functioning properly to tell the cells to respond to the hormone. This commonly happens in overweight and obese people, and makes it even harder for them to control appetite and weight gain.

What can people with leptin resistance do to control weight gain?
People with leptin resistance may find that they have frequent or even constant cravings or feelings of hunger. Researchers are still working to fully understand and develop effective treatments for leptin resistance, but for now, controlling cravings is the key to combating the effects of this condition.

If you're eating lots of foods with high-fructose corn syrup or lots of carbs, or if you're very stressed or sleep deprived, you're more likely to feel like you have an appetite you just can't satisfy. To beat your cravings, protein and fiber are the keys. Here's how to get your hunger back on track:

Step 1: To get an early jump on hunger, start your day with plain oatmeal and peanut butter. Studies have shown that oatmeal is one of the most filling and satisfying breakfast options and can reduce eating during the rest of the day. Peanut butter is a rich source of protein, which has also been shown to help reduce the brain signals that cause cravings.

Step 2: Take an Irvingia supplement. This supplement is made from African mango extract and has been shown to potentially improve leptin sensitivity and help improve body weight and waist and hip circumference. Adults over age 18 can try taking 150 mg twice a day along with food, but stop if you experience any side effects like gassiness, headache, nausea or sleeplessness. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid Irvingia. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement.

Step 3: Take a 12-hour break from food. Leave a 12-hour gap between your last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day. So if you eat dinner at 8 p.m. on one day, wait until 8 a.m. the next morning to eat breakfast.

More:
50 Fiber-Rich Foods
Dr. Oz's Protein Prescription
5 Healthy Ways to Satisfy Your Hunger