Leptin is a hormone produced by your fat cells. Measuring how much leptin is in your body tells your brain, specifically the hypothalamus, if enough fat is currently stored. From this, your hypothalamus is able to regulate how hungry you feel, whether or not you need to conserve energy/fat, and even if you should feel satisfied. It’s an important part of our body’s natural tendency towards healthy eating and energy levels.
Insulin has two primary jobs: transferring energy (in the form of glucose) to our cells and storing excess energy as fat. When we become insulin resistant or don’t use insulin efficiently, our bodies are forced to create extra insulin to compensate.
With too much insulin in your bloodstream, the hypothalamus is unable to gauge leptin levels properly, creating a range of problems:
Your body makes more fat: Because your brain can’t detect the leptin as well, it assumes you don’t have enough, i.e., you need to eat more, particularly more sugar and more fat. Your body gets locked into a sort of loop in which it wants to take in more food and expend less energy (do less), so as a result it makes more fat instead.
You crave unhealthy food: When we are low on specific nutrients, our brains create a hunger for certain foods, a behavior often seen in the seemingly random cravings of pregnant women. It’s generally a great way to regulate our diets and maintain a healthy variety. However, when your brain falsely thinks you are low on sugar and fat, you end up feeling hungry for exactly the kinds of foods you should be avoiding!
You don’t feel satisfied: Eating and other activities beneficial to the body, like sex, result in the release of reward chemicals (dopamine) that make us feel good and help us associate pleasure with activities. When you’re body is fooled by higher than necessary insulin levels though, you start to feel rewarded for eating the wrong kinds of food and need to eat more and more of those foods to feel satisfied.
You’re less energetic: Higher than necessary insulin levels can trick your brain into thinking that it is low on fuel and needs to conserve energy. Because your brain thinks it is low on fat reserves with leptin being blocked, it will put your body into a kind of “conservation mode” in order to save energy. Your metabolism slows and you feel lethargic because your body thinks it shouldn’t spend energy.
It’s easy to see why managing your body into insulin efficiency is so important to the leptin in your body and to your overall health.
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