Leptin is such an important hormone because it communicates with the entire metabolic system.
It interacts will all hormones, including cortisol, insulin, thyroid, and even sex hormones. It also plays a significant role in controlling inflammatory processes.
It lets the brain know when the body has enough stored energy in fat cells to start normal metabolic processes, like exercising and eating at a reasonable rate. And it’s widely known as the weight-managing hormone because leptin is responsible for letting the brain know when we should be full and when we are not.
Additionally, Leptin creates a hormonal cascade that impacts aromatase, cortisol, and insulin, and it shuts down the communication between insulin and cells. Usually, when insulin levels are high, cells receive a signal to take in glucose and store fat, which means more leptin signaling satiation to the brain should occur.
When leptin levels are high enough, the brain receives a signal that says it’s full. For people who regularly overeat, normal or slightly high leptin levels could mediate hunger levels. However, chronic elevation of leptin will have a negative impact on weight loss because the body will become leptin resistant and pick up fewer signals. This is because high leptin levels turn off glucose receptors in the cell, which means the cells don’t sense when they have enough fuel.
Regulate Leptin by Managing Blood Sugar
Leptin is difficult to regulate with a single supplement. It’s a powerful hormone affected by many processes and other hormones in the body. The most effective way to target healthy leptin levels is to regulate blood sugar levels.
A highly recommended supplement for regulating blood sugar is berberine in a 1,500 – 2,000 mg dose per day. Berberine is a traditional Chinese herb considered by some medical professionals to be nearly as effective as the type-2 diabetes drug Metformin. There are few side effects, and it offers the additional benefit of being antimicrobial and antibacterial in the gut.
Berberine allows the body to take in glucose and become less insulin resistant, helping decrease the amount of sugar and glucose produced by the liver. It also increases GLUT4 receptors, which helps with insulin resistance as well.
Other helpful supplements include bitter melon, Momordica, and chromium. Taking a gram of cinnamon each day as a supplement also has benefits that include managing blood sugar levels.
Lifestyle Changes That Support Leptin Regulation
Time-restricted eating, also called intermittent fasting, is an effective way to regulate blood sugar to help manage leptin levels. While traditional fasting could mean not eating or drinking anything except water for one to five days, time-restricted eating involves only eating during a predetermined window of time each day. So, for all but six to eight hours each day, you would just drink water.
This drastically reduces blood glucose levels while bringing a new level of awareness to mindless eating and emotional eating. A reduction in blood glucose levels results in a decrease in the amount of insulin in the pancreas, encouraging the body to use sugar for fuel when necessary.
Adopting eating habits that include consuming fewer simple carbohydrates helps break the cycle that prevents the body from breaking down fat. When we consume simple carbohydrates in excess, we see an increase in body fat, which raises cortisol levels and leads to higher estrogen levels via upregulation of aromatase enzyme; especially in those who are insulin resistant. As a result, leptin levels increase, and you are stuck in a cycle of fat gain.
Exercise is also an essential part of leptin regulation. Muscle cells use up glucose faster than fat cells. Since they use them as energy, the more muscle mass you have, the more insulin sensitive you are. This helps you regulate appetite, which assists with weight management.
Other Hormones that Impact Leptin & Weight Loss
Estrogen and cortisol also play important roles in weight management and insulin resistance. Elevated estrogen levels cause excess deposits of fat, which impacts the levels of leptin in our bodies.
High cortisol levels can contribute to insulin resistance. And as we have established, insulin and leptin work together very closely. A combination of these factors come together to create a cycle of hormone imbalances that are very difficult to break.
Overeating and eating the wrong foods is a habit that’s challenging to overcome for most people. Relearning what it feels like to be hungry requires a reduction in calories. Leptin is supposed to tell the brain when the body no longer needs additional energy, which should reduce appetite. So, it’s essential to work toward modifying the mind’s sensitivity to this powerful hormone to regulate appetite and reduce the compulsion to eat when it isn’t necessary.
¹ "Cortisol Is Negatively Associated with Insulin Sensitivity ... - NCBI - NIH." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050109/. Accessed 3 May. 2019.