Leptin the Appetite Suppressor Hormone

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Leptin: the hormone that suppresses appetite 

Many dieters struggle with weight loss because of their feelings of hunger. They try to lose weight but their appetite gets in the way.   Many have tried unsafe fad diets that are based on science but do not fully understand the science behind them.  Recently, I wrote an article on ghrelin.  Ghrelin is also know as the “hunger hormone”. Leptin is yin to ghrelin’s yang.  The name, leptin, comes from the Greek work “leptos” which translates as “thin”.

Banquet

Banquet

Leptin the appetite 

Leptin is often called the “satiety hormone” or the “starvation hormone.”  It was first discovered in 1994.  It is released from adipose or fat cells.  The function of leptin is to regulate energy balance or homeostasis[1]. Basically, leptin is a thermostat for fat storage.  If fat storage is at an adequate level, leptin signals a need to suppress your appetite[2],[3],[4] and leptin is released form you fat cells. I look at this as sort similar but opposite to ghrelin being release being suppressed by a full stomach.  With leptin, release is increased by swollen fat rich adipose or fat cells.  

The Leptin Cycle

The Leptin Cycle

Leptin is released from fat but it signals a feeling of fullness in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus.  In other words, the hormone acts on the hypothalamus to induce satiety or to control appetite based on the level of energy stores in fat cells. As fat weight is lost, leptin release lowers[5],[6] and as weight is gained, leptin release increases.  If you look at the hormone physiology cycle above, you will note as fat storage increases, fat cells increase leptin release which suppresses hunger in the hypothalamus and you eat less.  As you body starves or loses weight, leptin release reduces and appetite should return due to ghrelin hormone release from the stomach.  

The physiology of leptin is not as straight forward as one might guess. Although leptin suppresses appetite, it doe into work as well in obese individuals.  In obese individuals, the subjects develop a decreased sensitivity to leptin which results in a decreased signal of satiety despite adequate energy stores[7]. This is similar to the resistance to insulin in type 2 Diabetes.  When there are adequate fat stores in obese subject, leptin resistance or decrease sensitivity makes your hypothalamus less sensitive to leptin so higher levels are required to suppress appetite and create a full feeling.  

Weight Gain

Weight Gain

How do I Increase my Leptin?

  1. Get adequate sleep[8],[9],[10],[11].
  2. Stress management.  Research is mixed on leptin but it helps with cortisol levels and hunger.  
  3. CPAP – if you have sleep apnea.  Although research in not clear, it may help with reducing hunger.  
  4. Interval or burst training.  The research is mixed, but it does help with weight loss and lowers ghrelin.  
  5. Avoid high fructose corn syrup and sugar[12][13].

So, you may ask, why does any of this matter?  This matters because if you understand how leptin works and what can raise or lower leptin levels, you understand what to do and what not to do. Simply put, the physiology behind leptin explains why we gain weight and why we need to do everything we can to avoid worsening our leptin resistance.

Are there any drugs to help me with this?  Yes and no. There is no magic bullet to help raise your leptin levels, but there are some simple things you can do to raise your leptin or reduce you leptin resistance.  Plain and simple, adequate sleep will improve your response to and levels of leptin. Also, higher protein intake and fish oil will help not only raise leptin levels but also reduce ghrelin.  Until the day when we can find a grueling agonist that works to suppress hunger, these recommendations are all we have to increase leptin levels and suppress hunger.  

Recommendation

Recommendation

Recommendations:

  1. Moderate exercise for 30 minutes 5 days per week.  This helps with both weight loss and hunger but the research is mixed on leptin levels.  
  2. Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night[14],[15],[16],[17].
  3. Adequate protein intake (1 mg per Kg body weight)[18].  Although research is proven that leptin decreases on a high protein diet, higher protein diets decrease appetite.  Although there is not scientific proof at this time, I surmise that this must be do to decrease leptin resistance.  
  4. Add fish oil supplementation[19].  
  5. Avoid high fructose corn syrup and sugar[20],[21].
  6. Manage your stress.  Research is mixed on leptin but it helps with cortisol levels and hunger.  
Footnotes
[1]Brennan and Mantzoros, “Drug Insight: The Role of Leptin in Human Physiology and Pathophysiology–Emerging Clinical Applications.”
[2]Friedman, “Leptin, Leptin Receptors, and the Control of Body Weight.”
[3]Friedman and Halaas, “Leptin and the Regulation of Body Weight in Mammals.”
[4]Friedman, “The Function of Leptin in Nutrition, Weight, and Physiology.”
[5]Dubuc et al., “Changes of Serum Leptin and Endocrine and Metabolic Parameters after 7 Days of Energy Restriction in Men and Women.”
[6]Chin-Chance, Polonsky, and Schoeller, “Twenty-Four-Hour Leptin Levels Respond to Cumulative Short-Term Energy Imbalance and Predict Subsequent Intake.”
[7]Pan, Guo, and Su, “Advances in Understanding the Interrelations between Leptin Resistance and Obesity.”
[8]Collet et al., “The Sleep/Wake Cycle Is Directly Modulated by Changes in Energy Balance.”
[9]Taheri et al., “Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index.”
[10]Pejovic et al., “Leptin and Hunger Levels in Young Healthy Adults after One Night of Sleep Loss.”
[11]Schmid et al., “A Single Night of Sleep Deprivation Increases Ghrelin Levels and Feelings of Hunger in Normal-Weight Healthy Men.”
[12]Bray, Nielsen, and Popkin, “Consumption of High-Fructose Corn Syrup in Beverages May Play a Role in the Epidemic of Obesity.”
[13]Stanhope and Havel, “Endocrine and Metabolic Effects of Consuming Beverages Sweetened with Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, or High-Fructose Corn Syrup.”
[14]Pejovic et al., “Leptin and Hunger Levels in Young Healthy Adults after One Night of Sleep Loss.”
[15]Schmid et al., “A Single Night of Sleep Deprivation Increases Ghrelin Levels and Feelings of Hunger in Normal-Weight Healthy Men.”
[16]Collet et al., “The Sleep/Wake Cycle Is Directly Modulated by Changes in Energy Balance.”
[17]Taheri et al., “Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index.”
[18]Weigle et al., “A High-Protein Diet Induces Sustained Reductions in Appetite, Ad Libitum Caloric Intake, and Body Weight despite Compensatory Changes in Diurnal Plasma Leptin and Ghrelin Concentrations.”
[19]Ramel et al., “Beneficial Effects of Long-Chain N-3 Fatty Acids Included in an Energy-Restricted Diet on Insulin Resistance in Overweight and Obese European Young Adults.”
[20]Bray, Nielsen, and Popkin, “Consumption of High-Fructose Corn Syrup in Beverages May Play a Role in the Epidemic of Obesity.”
[21]Stanhope and Havel, “Endocrine and Metabolic Effects of Consuming Beverages Sweetened with Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, or High-Fructose Corn Syrup.”
Bray, GA, SJ Nielsen, and BM Popkin. “Consumption of High-Fructose Corn Syrup in Beverages May Play a Role in the Epidemic of Obesity.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 79, no. 4 (April 1, 2004): 537–43 [PubMed]
Brennan, AM, and CS Mantzoros. “Drug Insight: The Role of Leptin in Human Physiology and Pathophysiology–Emerging Clinical Applications.” Nature Clinical Practice. Endocrinology & Metabolism 2, no. 6 (June 1, 2006): 318–27 [PubMed]
Chin-Chance, C, KS Polonsky, and DA Schoeller. “Twenty-Four-Hour Leptin Levels Respond to Cumulative Short-Term Energy Imbalance and Predict Subsequent Intake.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 85, no. 8 (August 1, 2000): 2685–91 [PubMed]
Collet, TH, der van, E Henning, JM Keogh, D Suddaby, SV Dachi, S Dunbar, et al. “The Sleep/Wake Cycle Is Directly Modulated by Changes in Energy Balance.” Sleep 39, no. 9 (September 1, 2016): 1691–1700 [PubMed]
Dubuc, GR, SD Phinney, JS Stern, and PJ Havel. “Changes of Serum Leptin and Endocrine and Metabolic Parameters after 7 Days of Energy Restriction in Men and Women.” Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental 47, no. 4 (April 1, 1998): 429–34 [PubMed]
Friedman, JM. “Leptin, Leptin Receptors, and the Control of Body Weight.” Nutrition Reviews 56, no. 2 Pt 2 (February 1, 1998): s38-46; discussion s54-75 [PubMed]
———. “The Function of Leptin in Nutrition, Weight, and Physiology.” Nutrition Reviews 60, no. 10 Pt 2 (October 1, 2002): S1-14; discussion S68-84, 85–87 [PubMed]
Friedman, JM, and JL Halaas. “Leptin and the Regulation of Body Weight in Mammals.” Nature 395, no. 6704 (October 22, 1998): 763–70 [PubMed]
Pan, H, J Guo, and Z Su. “Advances in Understanding the Interrelations between Leptin Resistance and Obesity.” Physiology & Behavior 130 (May 10, 2014): 157–69 [PubMed]
Pejovic, S, AN Vgontzas, M Basta, M Tsaoussoglou, E Zoumakis, A Vgontzas, EO Bixler, and GP Chrousos. “Leptin and Hunger Levels in Young Healthy Adults after One Night of Sleep Loss.” Journal of Sleep Research 19, no. 4 (December 1, 2010): 552–58 [PubMed]
Ramel, A, A Martinéz, M Kiely, G Morais, NM Bandarra, and I Thorsdottir. “Beneficial Effects of Long-Chain N-3 Fatty Acids Included in an Energy-Restricted Diet on Insulin Resistance in Overweight and Obese European Young Adults.” Diabetologia 51, no. 7 (July 1, 2008): 1261–68 [PubMed]
Schmid, SM, M Hallschmid, K Jauch-Chara, J Born, and B Schultes. “A Single Night of Sleep Deprivation Increases Ghrelin Levels and Feelings of Hunger in Normal-Weight Healthy Men.” Journal of Sleep Research 17, no. 3 (September 1, 2008): 331–34 [PubMed]
Stanhope, KL, and PJ Havel. “Endocrine and Metabolic Effects of Consuming Beverages Sweetened with Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, or High-Fructose Corn Syrup.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 88, no. 6 (December 1, 2008): 1733S–1737S [PubMed]
Taheri, S, L Lin, D Austin, T Young, and E Mignot. “Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index.” PLoS Medicine 1, no. 3 (December 1, 2004): e62 [PubMed]
Weigle, DS, PA Breen, CC Matthys, HS Callahan, KE Meeuws, VR Burden, and JQ Purnell. “A High-Protein Diet Induces Sustained Reductions in Appetite, Ad Libitum Caloric Intake, and Body Weight despite Compensatory Changes in Diurnal Plasma Leptin and Ghrelin Concentrations.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 82, no. 1 (July 1, 2005): 41–48 [PubMed]
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About the Author

ChuckH

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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