Why Leptin Resistence Keeps Women Fat

leptin resistanceLeptin is a hormone that fat cells produce to help us control our bodyweight. Fewer fat cells release less leptin into the blood. The blood circulates through the brain where the hypothalamus senses the low level. In response, it tells the body to conserve energy and eat more. When the hypothalamus senses excess leptin, it tells the body to stop eating and burn stored fat. Together, they work as a built-in regulator to help the body manage its energy stores.

  • Fat cells increase
  • More fat cells produce more leptin
  • Hypothalamus senses high levels in blood
  • Body is told to eat less and burn more fat cells

Leptin Resistance

Sometimes, the system doesn’t work correctly. Fat cells produce leptin, but the hypothalamus doesn’t register the excess. It doesn’t send out the signal to stop eating and burn more fat cells. Instead, it keeps prompting the body to eat more, resulting in obesity.

  • Fat cells increase
  • More fat cells produce more leptin
  • Hypothalamus Does Not sense high levels in blood
  • Body is told to eat more and burn less fat cells

At first, scientists thought that adding more leptin to the blood would solve this problem. They thought that by increasing the levels, they would be sure to trigger the cut-off switch and suppress hunger. Surprisingly, it only made the problem worse. More of the hormone only increased the brain’s resistance to it.

The Leptin Loop

People with leptin resistance are driven to overeat; their bodies think they are starving. They store more fat cells which produce more leptin and causes the hypothalamus to become even more resistant to the hormone. The loop feeds into itself, and the brain requires higher and higher levels of leptin. Diets and willpower crumble when our primal instincts demand that we eat and fat stores expand.

The Leptin Yo-yo

When someone with Leptin Resistance does lose weight, the body thinks that it’s starving. The hypothalamus has grown used to high levels of leptin in the blood. Micah Johnston, a Nurse Practitioner at Barnes in St Louis explains the process, “Even though there are plenty of fat cells left, the body reacts to the lower levels of leptin. It puts the body into a sort of starvation mode and tries to regain the lost fat.”

Leptin resistance makes it difficult to lose weight. By understanding hormones such as leptin, women can gain the tools they need to win the battle.

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