Our body has a “not hungry anymore!” hormone that plays a vital role in appetite and weight management, known as leptin.
Also known as the “fat hormone” or better as the “starvation hormone”, it was first discovered by scientists in 1994.
Soon after its discovery many researchers and supplement manufacturers jumped the bandwagon to understand and utilize its affects on weight loss.
Today there are a huge array of supplements available in the market today (like the popular Biotrust Leptiburn or Leptinal) with contrasting opinions, raising the question if these they are just a fad or legit.
So, what is Leptin?
Leptin is a protein, that is responsible for telling the brain that we have enough energy stored in the fat cells, we do not need to eat more and that all the processes like burning energy and engaging in exercise can go on at the normal rate.
According to studies, each person has a personal leptin threshold that is probably set genetically.
The fat cells that make leptin, tell the brain how much body fat they carry. Higher levels of leptin convey the brain that we have lots of fat stored. While if your leptin levels are below your personal threshold, it tells the brain that fat stores are depleting and that we are at risk of starvation.
If your brain senses this, it will you go into the starvation mode and initiate processes to drive up the leptin level like cause cravings and hunger.
How does it affect weight?
The next question that arises is, if we have a hormone to indicate that we need to stop eating, why do some people keep feeling hungry and gaining weight?
The problem is that the brain isn’t picking the leptin signal. The leptin levels can be very high, due to high fat storage, but the brain does not realise this.
This condition is known as Leptin Resistance and has been studied to indicate as the main culprit for obesity. The lack of intercepting the signal results in the starvation mode and overeating even when there is sufficient energy present for normal processes.
Leptin resistance works similar to the insulin resistance, where the body does produce enough insulin, but the brain or the body does not pick up the signal.
What are Leptin Supplements? Do they really help to treat obesity?
There are divided opinions and research studies about the effectiveness of Leptin supplements in weight loss.
Initial research on rats suggested that the leptin hormone was the vital and once they received leptin injections they rapidly reduced all the excess weight and returned to their normal weight.
However, human studies suggested that most obese people do not lack the leptin hormone and neither can protein be ingested into the body as it gets broken down. Obese people are resistant to leptin, so they don’t get that “full” signal and they continue to eat.
So supplementing the hormone will not prove to be beneficial for them, unless they do not produce any leptin at all. What they need is to re-sensitize their brain to intercept the signal and respond accordingly. One of the ways to achieve this is to reduce the levels the hormone.
This can be achieved by eating a diet low in carbs, high in protein, exercising and intermittent fasting.
However leptin also acts as an appetite suppressant, so when a normal size individual goes on dieting and continues to take leptin supplements, leptin levels continue to rise until your brain eventually says “stop” and you feel full.
While more research is still spending, leptin supplements prove to be the ray of hope to prevent obesity, maintain a normal healthy weight and can be made to work when taken in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle and whole food diet.
Word of caution
Avoid taking Leptin supplements for a long period of time or too much supplements or Leptin foods, for the risk of developing Leptin insensitivity. This will again cause the brain to become less responsive to high Leptin levels and cause harm to your long-term goals by making you hungrier.
So consult your doctor before starting the supplement to avoid any risk.