You’ve probably heard about leptin hormone and its role in your body, but do you know what it does? Leptin can be confusing to understand, especially if you don’t have any background on the topic.
After you read through this, you should feel much more confident when talking about leptin with others or reading any scientific studies on the subject!
What is leptin?
Leptin is a hormone that regulates energy and glucose levels in your body. This crucial hormone travels through your bloodstream, sending messages back and between your brain and your fat cells.
When you have high levels of leptin, it tells your brain that you have enough energy stored as fat. The most common reason for having too much leptin is higher weight.
Usually, excess fat causes leptin resistance—whereby even though there’s plenty of leptin around, it can’t be properly interpreted by your brain.
Symptoms caused by too much or no leptin include weight gain, fluid retention (edema), weak bones (osteoporosis), cognitive impairment, infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), depression, and anxiety disorders.
What is the function of the leptin hormone?
The hormone leptin, released by adipose (fat) cells in your body, tells your brain how much fat you have stored. If you’re underweight, leptin sends a message that your body needs more fuel; if you’re overweight or obese, it sends a message of satiety and reduces your hunger.
People who are obese may produce too much leptin or be resistant to its effects—leading them to overeat and become even fatter.
Conversely, people with very low levels of leptin (known as leptin-deficient) can sometimes have an insatiable appetite and develop muscle loss and reproductive problems.
Most people fall within normal ranges for age and height—but knowing these basics about leptin can help you keep tabs on your health from head to toe!
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How are leptin levels controlled?
Like many other hormones, leptin levels are primarily controlled by a negative feedback loop. When your body has enough energy stored, leptin production falls, and appetite increases.
The fewer calories you eat, or if you’re in starvation mode for any reason, leptin is released, and appetite decreases.
While most of us think about calories when it comes to weight loss, remember that not all foods are equal when it comes to satiety and satisfaction.
Some high-calorie foods may cause you to feel hungrier than lower-calorie options. What we know now about leptin suggests that eating more protein and fibre (and fewer processed carbs) will help keep your hunger at bay—and can even help reduce cravings.
What test measures leptin levels?
Some doctors can measure leptin levels by drawing blood and sending it to a lab. However, if you want to know your specific leptin levels, you’ll need a more accurate test.
Your doctor may send you for an adiponectin test, which looks at both leptin and another hormone that’s produced by fat cells called adiponectin.
Another option is a salivary gland-based assessment of serum leptin (SGA-R). This test checks for low levels of leptin in your saliva.
However, some studies suggest it may not be as accurate as other tests. It could be good if you have excess fat on your face or around your neck—the extra tissue can make other tests less reliable.
What are normal leptin levels?
To maintain a healthy weight, leptin levels should fall between 3.5 and 8ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter).
Experts say that if your levels are too high or too low, you could be setting yourself up for various health problems.
While leptin is most commonly associated with obesity, research suggests there’s more to it than that; for example, low leptin has been linked to depression and memory loss.
Medical professionals need to understand where a patient falls in terms of their body mass index (BMI) and their leptin levels to determine how best to treat any related conditions. Fortunately, there are reliable blood tests available that can make testing easy.
What happens when leptin levels are too high?
Studies have shown that leptin influences the chemical reactions in your brain that control your feelings of hunger. Specifically, when you eat, leptin levels rise, and your brain produces less of a substance called neuropeptide Y (NPY).
NPY tells you when you’re hungry, it encourages you to seek out food. When you don’t have enough leptin or produce too much NPY, however, it can make it difficult for you to feel full and causes you to keep eating—even if your body doesn’t need calories right now.
If you eat more calories than your body needs, your body stores those extra calories as fat for later use. Thus, leptin is thought to play a significant role in regulating appetite.
What is leptin resistance?
People who don’t have enough leptin or can’t properly use it often develop what’s known as leptin resistance. The idea is that since they can no longer sense leptin, they don’t respond to it anymore—their bodies won’t burn excess fat.
People with high weight and Type 2 diabetes often have high levels of leptin in their bloodstream, but their bodies are resistant to its effects.
That means that even though there may be enough food energy (fat) in your blood for your body to burn for energy, it won’t do so because you’ve lost all sensitivity to a hormone that could tell your body otherwise.
What are the symptoms of leptin resistance?
Low leptin levels have been linked to various disorders, including obesity and type 2 diabetes. But when your body becomes resistant to leptin, you develop symptoms like weight gain and high blood sugar even if your diet is healthy.
There’s a strong correlation between obesity and insulin resistance—and both conditions can be caused by leptin resistance. Learn more about what causes it and how it affects your body.
What happens when leptin levels are too low?
If leptin levels are too low, you’ll feel hungrier more often and have more difficulty controlling your weight.
This is sometimes referred to as leptin resistance. It might also be associated with thyroid problems and an increased risk of developing diabetes.
People with a higher weight typically have higher than normal leptin levels because their body produces extra as a way of telling them they need to eat less.
If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important not to starve yourself! Doing so can cause your leptin levels to decrease dramatically, which then increases your appetite even further—causing a vicious cycle of starving yourself but never losing weight in return.