Is This Hormone Sabotaging Your Weight Loss?

Anyone who has struggled to lose weight knows it is not as simple as “calories in, calories out”. There are many factors that determine how quickly you lose weight… Genetic predisposition, types of calories you are eating (carbs, proteins, fats), resting metabolism, and maybe most importantly, hormones.  Hormones are the great chemical messengers in our bodies. They regulate everything from energy, sleep, libido, mood, fertility, as well as weight gain/loss. if you know me at all, you have probably heard me talk about cortisol, our primary stress hormone. Cortisol is definitely a fat-storing hormone, but it is not actually the focus of this article. Today, I want to talk about the hormone LEPTIN. 

Here is the fascinating thing about leptin… It is supposed to be one of the good guys! It’s whole role in the body is to tell our brains to BURN FAT and STOP EATING! It is  produced in fat cells, so the more fat cells we have, the more leptin we produce. This should act like a feedback loop to tell our bodies to start losing weight. Fantastic, right? Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the signal often stops working. We get fatter, our bodies produce more leptin, and our brains no longer pay any attention to it. This is a state called “leptin resistance“, and it is dangerous. Not only because it can put you on a slippery slope of weight gain, but also because excess leptin is associated with inflammation, fatigue, pain sensitivity, heart disease, and cancer.

So why isn’t leptin included on your regular annual bloodwork? Maybe because there is no magic pill your doctor can prescribe to lower leptin levels. I order it on a number of my patients, and more often than not it is elevated.

So, what’s the fix? How do we increase leptin sensitivity and overcome leptin resistance? Never fear, there are lots of effective strategies.

  1. Eat a low glycemic diet – leptin resistance appears to be related to insulin resistance. And the good news is you can fix both of those by lowering sugar/carbohydrate intake and increasing protein and good fats.
  2. Lower triglycerides – excess triglycerides in the blood seem to interfere with leptin signaling. Reducing carbs will lower your triglyceride level as will increasing fiber, exercise, and cutting out trans fats.
  3. Watch “when“ you eat as well as “what“ you eat – eating at night seems to increase leptin resistance… Try to eat the majority of your food when the sun is shining. 
  4. Exercise – nothing too stressful, but high intensity intervals and weight training can help with leptin sensitivity.
  5. Turn down the thermostat – cold seems to stimulate leptin receptors
  6. Sleep more – deep sleep can lower leptin levels and increase growth hormone levels; two birds with one stone!
  7. Relax! Excess levels of cortisol can cause Leptin Resistance.
  8. Consider adding hyaluronic acid and other glycosaminoglycans. In vitro, animal, and human studies suggest that these have an impact on leptin, fat storage, and body weight. They’re also good for joint health!   This is an example of a leptin supplement made by Xymogen:

Interested in checking your leptin levels? It’s an easy blood test, and is probably covered by your insurance. Call 703-909-4120 or email to discuss testing options.