Whether you’re a novice or an expert when it comes to the never-ending world of dieting, you probably already have some knowledge of the ever-growing array of supplements available designed to help you drop excess weight. However, your body already has a wide variety of built-in mechanisms designed to regulate various aspects of your weight, energy levels, and excess fat.
Arguably, one of the most dominant control mechanisms within the body are hormones, which are crucially responsible for maintaining and developing vitally efficient networks of communication between the brain, organs, and nervous systems, including your hunger levels.
One of these hormones has been dubbed the “starvation hormone” and is said to be responsible for controlling hunger levels and eating habits. The level of this hormone within the body will determine when you eat, how much you eat, and when you should stop eating.
This hormone is called ‘leptin’ and is produced by fat cells to signal important information to the brain which helps regulate your metabolism, appetite and body weight.
Leptin was first reported in 1994 by Jeffrey Friedman, a molecular geneticist. This represented a massive step forward in our understanding of obesity, which is now one of the world’s fastest-growing health problems.
What Is Leptin?
Leptin is the protein product encoded by the obese (ob) gene. It is a circulating hormone produced primarily by the adipose tissue (also known as lipocytes and fat cell). It is used by the body to provide the brain with vital information regarding fat intake, fat levels, and hunger levels.
How Is Leptin Produced?
This is a naturally occurring hormone within the body and is produced by fat cells as a biological communicator responsible for providing the brain with essential information relative to calorie intake, hunger, and fat storage levels.
How Does Leptin Work?
Essentially, your body will naturally store fat as you consume food throughout the day. This also means your body will need to keep track of how much fat you have, how much you need to use (or burn) in order to provide the relative amounts of energy for daily activities, and if you need to consume more.
Each individual will have a unique leptin threshold relative to the amount of adipose tissue stored in the body. The more excess adipose tissue a person holds, the more leptin they will produce as each fat cell will produce leptin. This can also result in a person having higher than normal leptin levels.
In basic terms, your brain should always know exactly how much fat you need in order to get through the day, as fat is converted into expendable energy used by the body to function.
So, when you consume food, the fat cells in your body will produce leptin which is sent to the brain to essentially say, “Hey, I’m one cell of fat/energy”. When the brain receives enough of these signals that equate to your individual leptin threshold, this is when your brain says, “Hey! I’ve had enough food, stop eating”.
This process should help you maintain your optimal weight relative to your energy needs, and technically speaking, it should also prevent you from becoming overweight but this is not necessarily the case for most people.
Does Leptin Help My Body To Burn Excess Fat?
It’s important to clearly understand what leptin is actually responsible for as it cannot be solely relied upon to lose weight or burn excess fat.
The hormone itself does not burn fat, it is merely a communication tool that tells your brain how much fat you actually have in your body, in turn, informing your body of how much fat is available to you for the purpose of burning energy relative to daily activities.
Leptin should tell your brain when you essentially have enough stored energy to get you through the day without actually losing any weight, or gaining it.
Does Leptin Prevent Me From Gaining Weight?
Given the previous information surrounding this hormone, you may have come to the conclusion that leptin will prevent you from gaining weight, think again.
Although this handy hormone will inform your brain when you need to stop eating, you still need to eat the right foods in order for this to be an efficient mechanism for weight control.
If you gorge on foods high in concentrated fats and sugars then you’re effectively giving your body the go-ahead to simply increase the level of leptin within your system, therefore it will actually have the reverse effect of helping you maintain weight as your body will now expect to see more signals from the leptin hormone as you now have more fat cells.
The level of leptin your brain expects to see is relative to your body weight. So, if you’re overweight then your brain will actually expect to see higher leptin levels than a person of average size, meaning your brain will tell you to eat more than you actually need to.
Can My Leptin Levels Be Too High?
Yes! This is the main reason you will gain even more weight if you are already overweight.
When your body is storing excess fat (or too much) this, in turn, will result in the production of high amounts of leptin which can produce an effect (or biological response) known as ‘Leptin Resistance’.
Whilst more research is needed into how this mechanism directly affects eating behaviors, in simplistic terms, the bodies receptors start to block this vital signal from the leptin hormone which means information regarding your fat intake does not reach the brain which in effect, causes the brain to be tricked into starvation mode.
The fat cells can no longer tell the brain, “Hey! We have enough energy for the day” which can result in the brain telling you that you still need to eat by delivering those hunger signals to your stomach.
Can I Take Leptin Supplements?
While there are a number of leptin supplements available on the market, many of them fail to accurately explain how they actually work, even research into leptin resistance and optimization is still very limited and mysterious.
Most supplements will actually focus on targeting other aspects of weight loss, such as increasing levels of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which actually destroy fat cells and prompt the body to remove this unwanted excess fat through natural bodily functions.
Leptin is a relatively newly discovered hormone predominantly made by adipose cells (fat cells or fat tissue) that help to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger via the bodies vagus nerve network. This hormone plays a key role in ensuring your brain has the necessary information it needs relative to your bodies fat levels.
Leptin itself is not responsible for burning fat, rather, it is a communication tool that keeps the brain informed of how much fat your body is storing at any particular time, which in turn, enables your brain to take decisive actions relative to your current potential energy levels throughout the day.
If the brain is not receiving enough leptin signals then it will tell you that you need to eat by signaling that well-known hunger sensation to the stomach. However, this can have an adverse effect on persons that are overweight as high levels of leptin production can actually cause ‘leptin resistance’. This is a process where there is so much leptin being produced, the bodies receptors start to block these communication signals to the brain.
When this happens your body is put in a constant state of starvation due to your brain not being told you have eaten a sufficient amount of food that can be stored as fat or used as energy. The brain is essentially starved whilst the body continues to be fed.