Leptin and Weight Loss

by Annie on September 7, 2009 · 8 comments

in Hormones & Fat Cells,Weight Loss & Body Image

This post is a discussion on the leptin hormone and how it impacts our weight loss goals.

Besides being a great insulator, our fat cells produce a number of hormones in our bodies.  When our fat cells perceive there is enough nourishment in our bodies, it releases leptin into our blood stream.

What is the function of leptin?

Leptin has two jobs.  Leptin travels on the bloodstream to our brains and tells us to reduce our appetites.  Leptin also boosts our metabolism by encouraging the cells to burn calories quickly.

How does a leptin impact weight loss?

Sounds like leptin is one of those hormones we want to have a lot of.  Unfortunately dieting reduces our leptin levels.  When we go on a weight loss diet, our body misinterprets the diet as starvation.

And being the great self-preserving machine that it is, our fat cells quickly slow leptin production so that our appetite can increase again.  Instead of weight loss when we diet, often times we find that we are even hungrier because our bodies are trying to make sure that our appetites are back to “normal.”  If we are not careful, low leptin levels can lead to binging later on.

If leptin is so critical to weight loss, how come drug companies don’t bottle the stuff and sale it?  They tried.  And they failed.    Leptin treatments in humans failed miserably.  Unlike mice, overweight individuals have a considerable amount of leptin their blood stream already, so adding more does nothing.

Leptin and food

Researchers believe that a low fat, plant based diet helps keep leptin levels up while a high fat processed diet suppresses leptin.  That is not surprising since we know that a diet high in fat and processed foods does strange things to our bodies’ natural ability to self-regulate.

Testing leptin levels

Though our doctors can easily check our leptin levels, they might not know how to interpret the results.  The amount of leptin in the blood varies immensely from one person to the next, from one blood draw to the next, and changes made to our diet.

How to boost leptin to maximize weight loss?

Do not go on a low calorie diet.

We need to eat at least the minimum calories necessary to sustain our bodies in order to keep leptin working.  Most low calories diet use 1,200 calories as the starting point.  Yeah, if you weigh less than 120 pounds.

To calculate the minimum calories necessary to sustain your body, multiply your weight by 10.  For example, if you are 150 pounds, you should aim to eat 1.500 calories.

But what if you are trying to lose weight?  Reduce 1,500 by 100 calories, to get 1,400 calories.  The absolute maximum calorie reduction should be 200 calories to keep your leptin levels functioning.

Do not forget to take into account the calories you are burning with exercise.  For example, if you are 150 pounds, you burn 200 calories with a 30 minute workout, then you should continue to eat 1,500 calories for the days that you exercise.  But reduce your daily calories to 1,400 calories for days that you do not exercise.

If you are active than add 200 calories to maintain your weight.  For example, if you are 150 pounds, you should aim to eat 1,700 calories if you are moderately active and want to maintain your weight.

Please keep in mind, these are minimum calories intake.  Depending on the composition of your body, your body might need more calories than the minimum.  For example, at 137 pounds, I would be ravenousness eating a 1370 calorie diet.  Looking over my food journal, I eat between 1,600-1,700 calories on average.

Eat more vegetables and fruits.

Besides being less calorie dense than steaks and French fries, vegetables and fruits keep leptin functioning properly.  Enough said.

Exercise makes your body respond better to leptin.

In a Harvard study of 268 participants, men who exercised regularly had dramatically increased their leptin sensitivity, making their existing leptin levels work more effectively.  A half hour walk is enough to make a difference.

The fat cells in our bodies are happy to produce leptin for us all day long.  But the key to making sure that leptin function properly is to eat the right amount of calories based upon a diet high in vegetables and fruits and to exercise regularly.  Our bodies will do what it takes to self regulate.  We only need to supply the building blocks.  Have a little patience with yourself.  If your appetite has been severely disrupted from restrictive dieting, it will take some time to get it back to normal.

Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sagan September 7, 2009 at 5:30 pm

I learned this stuff a while back but had forgotten all about it- thanks so much for reminding me!
.-= Sagan´s last blog ..Nutritional Yeast =-.


RickyRae September 8, 2009 at 3:16 am

Very cool! Interesting that there is no way to simply bottle that sucker in pill form in order to solve our problems. I guess no matter what getting healthy the ‘old fashioned’ way (diet and exercise) is the best way to go!
.-= RickyRae´s last blog ..Unlocking the Dilemma =-.


asithi September 9, 2009 at 6:36 am

@Sagan – Thanks for the comment

@RickyRae – Sometimes the “old fashioned” way just works best. Besides the more I know about pharmaceuticals the more I mistrust them. Call me paranoid. I know they do not intentionally harm people, but neither are they focus on my best interest. Side effects and drugs interaction. Arghhh! Stay away from me! Thanks for the comment.


Dr. J September 9, 2009 at 7:51 am

That’s a nice summary of the scientific information about leptin! Isn’t it interesting that the well know healthy behaviors are the treatment no matter what the disease state?
.-= Dr. J´s last blog ..The trouble with shopping lists, golf is good for you and taking the harm out of soft drinks =-.


asithi September 14, 2009 at 8:10 pm

@Dr. J – the healthy behaviors are usually the right treatment. Just that sometimes we are too lazy to believe it! Thanks for the comment.


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