Contributed by: Shellie Billingsley, NASM-CPT
Identifying different types of hormones is important in understanding the various ways these chemical messengers influence our health. A very important hormone is Leptin. When struggling with weight, it is important to know what leptin and leptin resistance is, what contributes to leptin resistance, and what you can do to reverse or prevent it.
Leptin is a hormone that is made in fat cells. It’s purpose is to let the brain know whether the body’s fat stores are sufficient or not. When fat stores are sufficient (meaning your body has a healthy amount of fat) metabolism is increased, appetite is low, and the body can burn calories at a normal rate. When fat stores are insufficient, metabolism slows, appetite increases, and the brain is saying “please find food.”
You may be wondering: “Well, I’m overweight. Shouldn’t all this leptin be telling my brain that I’m not hungry?” Not necessarily. Since leptin is produced by fat cells, leptin resistance develops in those who are overweight. When there is too much leptin in the blood stream, the excess amount blocks the flow of the hormone to the brain. This causes appetite and cravings to increase, metabolism slows down, and weight continues to rise. Leptin should keep a person from starving or overeating, but when it no longer has an influence on the brain, a person is leptin resistant.
Several factors contribute to leptin resistance including the consumption of excess refined carbohydrates, overeating, high fructose corn syrup, stress, and sleep deprivation.
Fortunately, leptin resistance can be reversed. One key factor that is within a persons control is to focus on the quality, rather than the quantity of food being consumed. Excess refined carbohydrates can lead to a negative chemical response, which supports the idea that a calorie is not just a calorie. Removing sugar, grains, and processed foods and conversely choosing whole, real, organic, and nutrient dense foods are steps that can be taken to help keep hormones, specifically leptin, in balance.
Nutrition can impact your hormones. To get a better understanding of which foods to avoid, and what foods should make up the majority of a persons diet, talk to a health and fitness professional.