Leptin is a hormone that is produced by the adipocyte (fat cell) It is the main regulator of our metabolism. This hormone travels to the brain and tells the brain how to regulate the fat cell, causing weight gain or weight loss. This hormone is also involved in the body's ability to burn energy and tells the body if it is hungry or not thus regulating appetite. When this hormone gets disrupted, which is called leptin resistance, The brain no longer responds to this hormone. The fat cell produces leptin, leptin travels to the brain and the brain becomes immune to this hormone. Therefore, the fat cell increases in size causing weight gain and the brain tells the body to slows it's metabolism down (burn less calories, increase hunger and lower energy). Until this hormone returns back in a normal, the body is resistant to losing weight.
So why does this happen? How does this hormone get disrupted?
Here are several reasons:
1) Hormonal changes - As women, at some point in our life we will definitely have hormonal changes. Maybe it is after having a baby or when our periods start to change or definitely almost always when we go thru menopause. How many times do you see a woman who has gone through menopause and then for no reason just keeps gaining weight? Maybe that's you. Well, changes in estrogen are well known to cause a disruption in the hormone leptin. This leads to leptin resistance. Thus lowering the body's metabolism. Also when leptin resistance is present, it is well shown in the literature that this is a cause of infertility. So, as ob/gyn's we recommend obese patients lose weight, especially if they are not having regular cycles or are not ovulating, which helps them to get pregnant.
2) Insulin resistance - Insulin is a hormone that is made by the pancreas. The purpose of this hormone is to help regulate blood sugar levels. The pancreas controls the storage of glucose in the liver, fat and muscle. When we eat, our blood sugar rises which causes the pancreas to release insulin so the sugar can be stored as energy for later use. The sugar turns into fat for our body to use when needed. However, when the hormone insulin becomes disrupted, insulin no longer does what it is supposed to do. The cells in the fat, liver and muscle no longer respond well to insulin and therefore cannot use glucose from the blood for energy. So the pancreas just keeps pumping out more and more insulin and the liver, fat and muscle cells become immune to the hormone. Over time, the blood sugar levels go up. This leads to insulin resistance.
When measuring blood sugar levels, in some patients the blood sugar may be high (which leads to pre-diabetes or diabetes itself while other patients may still have normal sugar levels. In this case, when blood sugar levels are normal from a blood test, there still can be insulin resistance occurring in the cells but it just hasn't become severe enough to show prediabetes or actual diabetes but if weight loss does not occur, it will just be a matter of time before diabetes occurs.
3) Abnormal thyroid function - The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland located in the lower neck. It produces thyroid hormone which helps to regulate the body's metabolism. Thyroid hormone goes to every cell in the body. That helps to keep the body warm, Use energy and keep the brain, heart, muscles and all tissues in the body functioning normally.
When this gland is not functioning properly and the thyroid hormone is too low, the body slows down its metabolism. Fatigue, getting cold easy, hair loss, gaining weight, depression, dry skin and constipation are just a few of the symptoms that may occur from low thyroid or a condition called hypothyroidism.
4) Age- well you guessed it, as we age we tend to gain weight. Leptin is the reason behind it.
5) Medications - There are many meds on the market that have weight gain as a side effect. However, some meds are very necessary and cannot be avoided. In this situation, when weight gain begins to occur, addressing the issue quickly will result in an easier ability to shed the pounds.
As you can see, leptin is a very important hormone to manage your weight. In fact this is a hormone that can be tested and most doctors don't know about it or how to interpret it if it is tested. With our extensive training and integrative medicine approach, we perform a complete laboratory workup to get to the root cause as to why a person's metabolism is not functioning properly (you guessed it...including testing leptin levels, among many others). We can then provide you customized solutions to losing weight. After all, isn't this the answer you have been looking for? To schedule an appointment, call (740) 689-2079.