Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells, which inhibits hunger and regulates fat stores. If you're constantly hungry even after eating a big meal, you may have leptin resistance and could benefit from eating certain foods.
Avoiding sugary foods and eating more fiber can stimulate leptin release and increase satiety.
How Leptin Regulates Energy
This hormone regulates metabolism and measures the rate of fat breakdown in your body. Its name comes from the Greek word "lepos," which means thin.
When your body has little fat mass, leptin levels fall and energy expenditure is reduced, explains the Society for Endocrinology. A message signaling hunger is sent to the hypothalamus, the area of your brain that regulates appetite. This process ensures that your body will not starve.
After you eat, leptin is released. High levels of leptin tell your brain you have sufficient stores of fat. Your metabolic rate increases and your appetite diminishes. Therefore, leptin is a key regulator of body weight.
People living with obesity have elevated levels of leptin, states the Society for Endocrinology. This could be caused by a condition called leptin resistance, in which the brain doesn't respond to changes in leptin levels, according to a February 2012 review published in Cell Metabolism. Sometimes, leptin messengers don't function properly, which may trigger a constant feeling of hunger and contribute to weight gain.
Leptin resistance differs from the rare congenital leptin deficiency that results from a genetic mutation in the leptin receptors. This can result in abnormal eating behaviors from birth to adulthood, says the U.S. National Library of Medicine. By administering leptin to increase hormone levels, a healthy metabolism can be restored, according to a January 2015 review in the journal Metabolism.
Another review, published in October 2014 in Frontiers in Endocrinology, has shown that administering leptin to people with obesity with the mutated leptin gene significantly decreased body weight and food intake. However, increasing leptin in people with obesity who don't have congenital leptin receptor deficiency was ineffective.
Factors Affecting Leptin Production
In addition to food, factors that influence the secretion of leptin include gender, age, obesity and physical exercise. Several hormones, including insulin, growth hormones and testosterone, modulate leptin levels.
If you reduce your caloric intake, any resulting weight loss will decrease leptin levels. Your brain interprets this as a starvation signal, according to a July 2018 study in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy. Therefore, if you are leptin resistant, it is more likely you will regain the pounds lost.
Weight loss supplements and leptin diet pills have become popular due to their claims to decrease appetite and make it easier to slim down. Most of these products contain a mix of various nutrients, such as alpha-lipoic acid or green tea. There is little evidence, however, that these increase leptin levels and cause weight loss.
A natural product made from the seed extract of the African mango may promote fat loss by reducing serum levels of leptin, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, few clinical trials can establish the safety of leptin-influencing supplements in humans, so further studies are needed.
Foods That Reverse Leptin Resistance
Certain dietary changes may help reverse leptin resistance and stimulate leptin release. First, replace your go-to snacks with fruits, dark chocolate and fermented cheese. The study in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy has found that eating foods rich in phenolic compounds may increase satiety.
Increasing your dietary fiber intake by eating whole grains, legumes and oatmeal may help too. Fiber gives you a feeling of fullness, making it easier to reduce your food intake.
Another thing you can do is to lower your triglyceride levels. According to an October 2017 study published in the International Journal of Obesity, these fatty acids can cross the blood-brain barrier and induce leptin resistance. An effective way to reduce your triglycerides is to avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates, points out the Mayo Clinic.
Read more: Menus for the Leptin Diet
Focus on eating a well-balanced diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and adequate sleep. Simple things, such as cutting back on sugar and staying active throughout the day, can make it easier to get lean and keep your hormones in balance.
- Society for Endocrinology: You and Your Hormones: "Leptin"
- Cell Metabolism: "Defining Clinical Leptin Resistance - Challenges and Opportunities"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Genetics Home Reference: "Leptin Receptor Deficiency"
- Frontiers in Endocrinology: "New Pharmacological Perspectives for the Leptin Receptor in the Treatment of Obesity"
- Leptin: "Physiological and Hormonal Factors that Influence Leptin Production"
- Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy: "Weight Outcome After 2 Years of a Diet That Excludes Six Processed Foods: Exploratory Study of the “1,2,3 Diet” in a Moderately Obese Population"
- Clinical Endocrinology: "Effects of Oral α-Lipoic Acid Administration on Body Weight in Overweight or Obese Subjects: A Crossover Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial"
- National Institutes of Health: "Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss"
- Joslin Diabetes Center: "How Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?"
- International Journal of Obesity: "Triglycerides Cross the Blood–Brain Barrier and Induce Central Leptin and Insulin Receptor Resistance"
- Mayo Clinic: "Triglycerides: Why Do They Matter?"
- Metabolism: "Physiology of Leptin: Energy Homeostasis, Neuroendocrine Function and Metabolism"