The hormone leptin has made big news since its discovery in 1994. Some heralded it the “obesity cure.”
So, what is this mysterious leptin, anyhow? How does it work? Hoe does it help in fighting obesity?
- Leptin is a hormone secreted by white adipose tissue (i.e. fat).
- This hormone interacts with a part of the brain called the hypothalamus to regulate energy intake and expenditure. In other words, this means leptin is what is largely in charge of running our metabolism.
- Leptin regulates fat metabolism and hunger. In healthy, leptin-sensitive adults, when leptin levels are high, they feel full, and conversely when levels are low, they feel hungry. This is the mechanism that should keep us from accumulating excess fat.
Not enough leptin isn’t the problem
Naturally, researchers originally thought simply treating obese individuals with therapeutic doses of leptin would be a panacea, a cure for the over-fat. Unfortunately, leptin was not the miracle fat cure. Though supplemental leptin can help the rare individual with a congenital leptin defect, it doesn’t do much to help most of us who are overweight.
Most overweight individuals produce lots of leptin, which means this leptin should be signaling to our brains that we don’t need food and aren’t hungry. Overweight individuals aren’t lacking leptin, the problem isn’t that they don’t have enough and need a supplement.
Leptin resistance is the problem
The problem is, chronic over exposure to leptin causes leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is when the receptors in the hypothalamus are no longer sensitive and respond to the leptin that is flooding into the brain, so the brain never gets the signal that it doesn’t need food!
When an individual is leptin-resistant it can restult in obesity, increased appetite, diabetes, infertility, and a number of other pretty negative outcomes! (For reference, if you are overweight, you can pretty much bet you’re leptin-resistant.)
How to become leptin-sensitive vs. leptin-resistant
Studies have found that diets high in fructose are particularly prone to causing leptin resistance. Fructose are the sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and honey.
On the other hand, research shows that a sugar-free, high-fat diet increases leptin sensitivity. (Yes, I said high-fat. That’s not a typo.)
There are a couple of ways to increase leptin sensitivity.
- The first thing you can do is alter your diet. I’d recommend following Dr. Jack Kruse’s Leptin Prescription. The gist of the diet is as follows:
- Eat a paleolithic, ketogenic diet. This means lots of protein and fat and very few carbohydrates.
- Eat a super-large breakfast in the morning within 30 minutes of waking up. Aim for 50-75 grams of protein for breakfast.
- Eat only 2 or 3 meals per day with NO snacking. Be sure to allow at least four hours between dinner and bedtime.
- The second way you can become leptin-sensitive is through including cold exposure into your daily regime.
- When skin receptors are exposed to cold over a period of time, they begin to release leptin from fat cells in great amounts. The leptin is then able to decrease our white adipose tissue (fat) through programmed “cell death.” Dr. Kruse dramatically states, “Leptin and IGF-1 are the mafia hit men of your fat cells in cold. They just melt your fat cells from your body, by killing them PERMANENTLY!”
- Not only does the cold cause leptin to be released from the fat cells, it also alters the leptin receptors in the brain. These receptors become much more sensitive to the leptin thereby decreasing appetite.
Good news for diabetics
All of this also has profound implications for individuals struggling with diabetes. Dr. Kruse claims, “Diabetics need winter and cold more than they know. Diabetes is not a disease. It is normal physiology missing winter. Cold is what reverses their metabolic syndrome completely. Eating carbs in autumn or winter can alter leptin entering the brain at the hypothalamus to derail the ancient pathway before it ever has a chance to work.”
Bottom Line: We need the cold
We need the cold to reclaim our health and longevity. Check out Dr. Kruse’s TEDx talk where he talks about leptin, cold, and how he has reclaimed his health!
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