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Leptin produced by your fat cells is known as a “satiety hormone” that reduces appetite and makes you feel full. As a signaling hormone, its role is to communicate with the hypothalamus.
Leptin tells the brain that there is enough stored fat and more is not needed, this helps prevent overeating.
People who are overweight or obese usually have very high levels of leptin in their blood. In fact, one study found that leptin levels in obese people were 4 times higher than in people of normal weight. And if leptin reduces appetite, then obese people with high levels of leptin should start eating less and lose weight.
Unfortunately, in obesity the leptin system does not work as it should. This is referred to as “Leptin Resistance”…just like insulin resistance. When leptin signaling is impaired, the message to stop eating does not get through to the brain, so it does not realize you have enough energy stored.
In essence, your brain thinks it is starving, so you are driven to eat.
Two potential causes of leptin resistance are chronically elevated insulin levels and inflammation in the hypothalamus.
Here are a few suggestive ways for improving leptin sensitivity:
- Avoid inflammatory foods: Limit foods that cause inflammation, especially sugary drinks and trans fats.
- Eat certain foods: Eat more anti-inflammatory foods, such as fatty fish.
- Exercise regularly: Moderate activity can improve leptin sensitivity.
- Get enough sleep: Studies have shown that insufficient sleep leads to a drop in leptin levels and increased appetite.
4. Neuropeptide Y (NPY)
Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a hormone produced by cells in the brain and nervous system. It stimulates appetite, particularly for carbohydrates, and is highest during periods of fasting or food deprivation.
Levels of neuropeptide Y are elevated during times of stress, which can lead to overeating and abdominal fat gain.
Recommended ways for lowering NPY:
- Protein: A low-protein diet has been shown to increase release of NPY, which leads to hunger, increased food intake and weight gain.
- Don’t fast for too long: Animal studies have demonstrated that very long fasts, such as over 24 hours, can dramatically increase NPY levels.
- Soluble fiber: Eating plenty of soluble prebiotic fiber to feed the friendly bacteria in the gut may reduce NPY levels.
Estrogen is the most important female sex hormone. It is produced by ovaries and other cells throughout a woman’s life, and is responsible for breast growth and other changes at puberty.
Both very high and low levels of estrogen can lead to weight gain. This depends on age, action of other hormones, and overall state of health.
During the reproductive years, estrogen allows women to store fat to ensure enough energy is available for pregnancy.
Obese women tend to have higher estrogen levels than normal weight women, and some researchers believe this is due to environmental influences.
During menopause, when estrogen levels drop because less is produced in the ovaries, the site for fat storage shifts from the hips and thighs to visceral fat in the abdomen. This promotes insulin resistance and increases disease risk.
These nutrition and lifestyle strategies can help manage estrogen:
- Fiber: Eat plenty of fiber if you want to reduce estrogen levels.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Eating cruciferous vegetables may have beneficial effects on estrogen.
- Flax seeds: Although the phytoestrogens in them are controversial, flax seeds appear to have beneficial effects on estrogen in most women.
- Exercise: Physical activity can help normalize estrogen levels in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women.
Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It’s known as a “stress hormone” because it’s released when your body senses stress.
Like other hormones, it’s vital to survival. However, chronically elevated levels of cortisol can lead to overeating and weight gain.
It appears that women who carry excess weight around the middle respond to stress with a greater increase in cortisol.
In one study, women who consumed a low-calorie diet had higher cortisol levels and reported feeling more stressed than women who ate a normal diet.
These strategies can reduce cortisol levels:
- Balanced diet: Follow a balanced, real food-based diet. Don’t cut calories to extremely low levels.
- Meditate: Practicing meditation can significantly reduce cortisol production.
- Listen to music:. Researchers report that when soothing music is played during medical procedures, cortisol doesn’t rise as much.
- Sleep more: One study found that when pilots lost 15 hours of sleep over the course of a week, their cortisol levels increased by 50-80%.
Hormones work together to increase or decrease appetite and fat storage. Hence, may influence weight gain or weight loss. Without proper understanding of these hormones, you will find yourself constantly struggling with weight issues…
Fortunately, diet and lifestyle changes can have powerful effects on these hormones.