Why is Leptin So Important for Fat Loss?
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Leptin is a very important adipokine that helps regulate energy expenditure and intake, and regulates energy for things such as appetite and hunger, behavior, and metabolism. It is secreted by adipose tissue, and is one of the most important adipose derived hormones, and is something many people don’t realize plays a big part in fat reduction.
Leptin and Fat Loss
So what exactly does leptin do, and how can it help you burn unwanted fat? Leptin works with the hypothalamus in the brain, acting as an appetite suppressor in a few different ways:
1. Neuropeptide Y- leptin counteracts neuropeptide Y, which is a powerful stimulant that activates feeding signals, and is found in cells in the gut and hypothalamus.
Why do we need leptin?
Leptin is a natural appetite suppressant, so the less leptin we have in our bodies, the more often uncontrollable food intake occurs, causing obesity. Fasting and having a very low calorie diet are two ways to reduce leptin levels, studies have shown. This method is actually counterproductive for weight loss, as it reduces leptin levels and lowering the natural appetite suppressants in your body, making it harder not to eat uncontrollably.
Leptin levels are more affected by starvation rather than over eating—you will have more of an impact on your levels of leptin when fasting, drastically lowering them. Conversely, they do not rise dramatically after eating a lot of food in a short period of time.
There are unclear results of leptin levels while sleeping—some studies suggest the presence of melatonin found during sleep suppress leptin levels, whereas other studies find that insulin and melatonin actually increase leptin levels. More studies are necessary to be sure of a conclusion.
What does this all mean?
Leptin is an appetite suppressor that binds to neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurons in order to decrease their activity. Then, the leptin is what signals the brain that you have had enough to eat. This term of signal completion and brain recognition is called satiety. However, there is a small group of humans that have a mutation in the leptin gene, causing constant food cravings and leading to severe obesity. Fortunately, there is some successes in treating this condition by administering additional leptin to the patient.
Extensive clinical trials using this method are inconclusive however, as only severely obese patients who were given relatively high doses of leptin saw significant weight loss. It was found that only large and frequent doses found the best success in the obese patients, making the procedures frequent and uncomfortable. Additionally, these injections caused patients to drop from the study, because of inflammation at the injection site, which was a common side effect.
There is a specific form of leptin, called Fc-leptin, which can further aid in the relief of these problems associated with the mutation of the leptin gene. This related gene fuses with other genes in the body, and has proven to be successful in mice with low leptin levels and normal leptin levels—however, this has not yet been tested on humans. If successful testing continues, Fc-leptin could be a highly effective solution for humans with a leptin mutation.People with servere obesity are insensitive to the effects of leptin, causing larger appetites and more frequent eating without being sated. Essentially, leptin inhibits activity of genes and neurons that agitate hunger and feeding, and help promote appetite suppressing genes and neurons.
What else does leptin do?
Aside from appetite control, leptin helps with a few other very important bodily functions. It promotes the growth of new blook vessels, and helps with circulation. Also, it helps fetal lungs develop and grow. In mice, it is needed for fertility in both males and females—however, it has a lesser effect on human fertility.
Leptin is produced by fat cells, and also by the placenta. During pregnancy, levels of leptin increase, and decrease after childbirth. Leptin also induces uterine contraction. It also plays a role in morning sickness.
Bodyweight is biologically related, and naturally tries to maintain a distinct range of body fat. This natural regulation is in part caused by leptin, which is a natural appetite suppressant that helps you control your eating. These natural systems more often work for fat loss rather than weight gain, as seen with leptin levels being more drastically effected by starvation rather than overeating.
Leptin works with other hormones in the body to regulate food intake—specifically sending signals to the brain to let it know that you are done eating; there are some with a leptin mutation that resist the effects of leptin, causing severe obesity.
Dieting and fasting have an inverse effect on leptin, lowering leptin levels and making it more difficult to not eat. Studies show that there is some benefit to having additional leptin injections for those with the mutation that are severely obese—however, this was only with the most severely obese, and relatively large doses of leptin. Further testing needs to be done for any conclusive results. A different form of leptin, Fc-leptin, could be a potential gain in the grounds of leptin injection treatments, and has shown some successes in mice; it has yet to be tested on humans.
It is important to fully understand the biology that goes into regulating bodyweight and appetite to get a hold on your eating and take back control of your health.
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