Leptin is a protein that is formed mainly in the body’s adipose tissue. It can also be secreted in the liver, placenta, and gastric mucosa. Once released, it passes into the blood and acts as a signal to the brain.
This is a hormone that is directly involved in the control of satiety , that is, it plays a very important role in weight regulation. For this reason, in recent years, leptin supplements have become very popular: it is claimed that they are able to decrease appetite and facilitate weight loss. However, the effectiveness of supplementation with the hormone is controversial.
Find out everything you need to know about leptin, what it is, how it works and if it is true that it can help you lose weight.
What is leptin and how does it work?
The hormone was discovered in 1994 and has been studied ever since for its role in regulating weight and obesity in both animals and humans.
Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells and is primarily related to food intake. After eating, she is in charge of warning the brain that you are already satisfied, and consequently you lose your appetite. Similarly, when you eat heavily, your bloodstream levels of leptin remain elevated for longer.
That is, this hormone tells the brain that you have enough stored fat, which reduces your appetite, signals the body to burn calories and prevents you from overeating. In contrast, when levels are low, your brain senses hunger, increases your appetite, and burns calories at a slower rate. This is why it is often called the hunger hormone.
More leptin, more weight loss?
It is important to emphasize that all bodies are different, and therefore, the reactions of the hormone in each person are diverse. For example, people with obesity, despite having high levels of leptin, the brain does not recognize the signals that the hormone sends it. This is known as leptin resistance .
This means that even if you have more than enough of the hormone available, your brain does not recognize it and thinks that you are still hungry. As a result, you keep eating. Plus, not only do you eat more, but it also signals to your brain that you need to save energy, which leads you to burn calories at a slower rate.
In terms of weight loss, more leptin is not necessarily what matters. What really matters is how well your brain interprets the hormone signals. That is, due to resistance to leptin, more leptin is not proportional to weight loss , as this will only depend on each body. Therefore, taking a supplement that increases leptin levels does not necessarily lead to weight loss.
Do leptin supplements work?
Most leptin supplements do not actually contain the hormone, but rather a mixture of various nutrients marketed to reduce inflammation and therefore increase sensitivity to leptin. Some include ingredients like alpha lipoic acid and fish oil, while others contain green tea extract and soluble fiber.
Some research has looked at the African mango , or Irvingia gabonensis, for its positive effect on leptin sensitivity and weight loss. Ingesting it has been shown to lower leptin levels, which can be helpful in improving sensitivity. (Cortez et al., 2016; Ross, 2011). In addition, some studies found that the African mango produced a modest reduction in weight and waist circumference. (Egras, Hamilton, Lenz and Monaghan, 2011; Etoundi, Mbofung, Ngondi, Nyangono and Oben, 2009)
However, more research and studies are needed to conclude whether supplements can influence leptin resistance.
Natural ways to promote weight loss
Although studies on leptin supplements are inconclusive and more research is needed, there are some natural suggestions that can help improve leptin resistance, increase sensitivity, and promote weight loss without having to take a supplement:
- Increase your physical activity: Research in both animals and humans indicates that regular physical activity can increase sensitivity to leptin. (Anderssen et al., 2001; Cheng et al., 2008)
- Diets high in sugar can worsen leptin resistance. One study shows that leptin resistance improved in rats on a sugar-free diet. (Banks, Harris, Scarpace and Vasselli, 2013)
- Eat more fish: Studies suggest that diets rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as fish, can lower blood levels of the hormone, improve sensitivity, and promote weight loss. (Madani, Malaisse, Louchami, Sener and Yahia, 2011)
- High-fiber cereals: One study suggests that eating high-fiber cereals, especially oat fiber, can improve leptin resistance and sensitivity and aid in weight loss. (Han et al, 2016)
- Get a good night’s rest: sleep is key to hormonal regulation.
- Reduces triglycerides in the blood: having high triglycerides hinders the transport of leptin to the brain .
- Anderssen, S., Drevon, C., Hjermann, I., Holme, I., Reseland, J., Solvoll, K. and Urdal, P. (2001). Effect of long-term changes in diet and exercise on plasma leptin concentrations. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi: 10.1093 / ajcn / 73.2.240
- Banks, W., Harris, R., Scarpace, P. and Vasselli, J. (2013). Dietary Components in the Development of Leptin Resistance. Advances in Nutrition . doi: 10.3945 / an.112.003152
- Cortez, M., González, M., Martínez, E., Mendez del Villar, M., Pérez, K., Ramírez, A. and Zuñiga, L. (2016). Novel nutraceutic therapies for the treatment of metabolic syndrome. World Journal of Diabetes. doi: 10.4239 / wjd.v7.i7.142
- Cheng, K., Matheny, M., Rogrigues, E., Scarpace, P., Shapiro, A.,
Tümer, N., Zhang, Y. and Zolotukhin, S. (2008). Synergy Between Leptin Therapy and a Seemingly Negligible Amount of Voluntary Wheel Running Prevents Progression of Dietary Obesity in Leptin-Resistant Rats. American Diabetes Association . doi: 10.2337 / db07-0863
- Egras, A., Hamilton, W., Lenz, T., and Monaghan, M. (2011). An Evidence-Based Review of Fat Modifying Supplemental Weight Loss Products. Journal of Obesity. doi: 10.1155 / 2011/297315
- Etoundi, B., Mbofung, C., Ngondi, J., Nyangono, C. and Oben, J. (2009). A novel seed extract of the West African plant Irvingia gabonensis , significantly reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight humans in a randomized double-blind placebo controlled investigation. Lipids in Health and Disease. doi: 10.1186 / 1476-511X-8-7
- Madani, Z., Malaisse, W., Louchami, Z., Sener, A. and Yahia, D. (2011). Dietary sardine protein lowers insulin resistance, leptin and TNF-α and beneficially affects adipose tissue oxidative stress in rats with fructose-induced metabolic syndrome. International Journal of Molecular Medicine. doi: 10.3892 / ijmm.2011.836
- Han, S., Jiao, J., Qin, L., Zhang, R., Zhang, W., Zhang, Z. (2016). Effects of cereal fiber on leptin resistance and sensitivity in mice fed a high-fat / cholesterol diet. Food and Nutrition Research . doi: 10.3402 / fnr.v60.31690
- Ross, M. (2011). African Mango: A Proprietary Seed Extract of Irvingia gabonensis is Found to Be Effective in Reducing Body Weight and Improving Metabolic Parameters in Overweight Humans.
Holistic Nursing Practice. doi: 10.1097 / HNP.0b013e318222735a