A recent breakthrough in medical science centers on the leptin hormone and its role in storing unwanted fat. It is estimated that 90 percent of the American population has been on a weight loss diet at some point in their life. The weight loss industry is a billion dollar industry with new diets, supplements, and programs all vying for your attention. Of the top three New Year’s Resolutions, weight loss is always one of them. With all this attention to and money spent on weight loss you would think that Americans would be the leanest people on Earth. According to the National Center for Health Statistics the reality is that 66 percent of adults age 20 years and older are overweight with 32 percent clinically obese.
This means that 2 out of every 3 people you meet will be overweight. Next time you’re out in a crowd make your own observation to see if this sad reality isn’t true. It is sad because the medical impact of overweight/obesity has now overtaken the medical impact that smoking has had on the health of people. Something is not working. This article will help you understand the critical role the leptin hormone plays in weight loss. We will also examine how leptin supplements can help your body regain its ability to control the accumulation of fat.
The Primary Causes of Overweight/Obesity!
Before we concentrate on the leptin hormone it’s important to understand the primary causes of overweight/obesity. Medical researchers have identified 4 critical factors that cause people to accumulate unwanted fat. They are:
Almost 100 percent of the diet industry focuses on factor number one which is the imbalance between caloric intake and caloric expenditure. Programs like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and NutriSystem work on the caloric intake side of the equation. Many diet supplements work on the caloric expenditure side of the equation by trying to elevate your metabolism to burn more calories. To better understand this dynamic between caloric intake and expenditure please read the article “The Secret to Weight Loss!”
While paying attention to caloric intake is critical for successful weight management, it clearly is not the only factor causing the overweight/obesity problem in America. While factors 2 and 3 are also important it is factor 4 that has been the hardest to get a handle on. Many consider it to have the greatest impact on age-associated weight gain. Recent medical research has seen a major breakthrough in factor 4 and it centers on the leptin hormone.
How Fat Cells Get Fat!
Fat cells are important for your long term survival. They are designed to store fat in the form of triglycerides for the future energy needs of the body. During times when food is in short supply and your caloric expenditure exceeds your caloric intake, the body can use its fat stores to make up the caloric difference. However, this only works short term because fat cells deploy multiple survival mechanisms to maintain their existence.
It is these mechanisms that cause age-related weight gain. When your caloric intake exceeds your expenditure your body converts these additional calories to fat in the form of triglycerides. These triglycerides enlarge the fat cells. Those who are clinically obese are characterized by both an increase in the size and number of fat cells. There are specific command signals that control both the storage and release of fat. As we age this process is less efficient in utilizing fat for energy resulting in more of it being stored in your fat cells.
Three Critical Command Signals!
The aging process can have a negative effect on the command signals that regulate both the size and number of fat cells. The three critical command signals of fat cells are:
The first command signal is the leptin hormone which is secreted by fat cells. The leptin hormone has two primary functions. First, it is used by your body to signal your brain that enough food has been ingested which in turn shuts down appetite. Second, it facilitates the process of breaking down stored triglycerides in your fat cells into free fatty acids so that they can be utilized for energy production.
The second command signal is the adiponectin hormone which is also secreted by fat cells. This hormone is important for insulin sensitivity. The adiponectin hormone seems to have anti-atherosclerotic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic functions.
The third command signal is an enzyme produced in fat cells called glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase. It helps convert blood glucose into triglycerides which are then stored in the fat cells.
An effective use of these three commands signals to facilitate weight loss would be to:
Before we examine how we can achieve this we need to look at one additional factor called leptin resistance.
What is Leptin Resistance?
The leptin hormone is secreted by your fat cells. Thus it would reason that overweight/obese individuals would have greater amounts of the leptin hormone in their bloodstream and this is true. Why then the increase in fat stores when the leptin hormone is supposes to turn off their appetite while facilitating the burning of triglycerides? It is because fat cells also release a leptin-binding protein called C-reactive protein which causes leptin resistance.
Here is a brief overview of how it works. The leptin hormone is secreted by the fat cells. As people accumulate excess fat cells, a protein called C-reactive protein is released that binds to the leptin in the bloodstream. This impairs the leptin hormone from being transported across the blood-brain-barrier. The result is leptin can not carrying out its two primary functions: controlling appetite and breaking down stored fat. As fat cells increase, more C-reactive protein is released binding additional leptin to create a vicious cycle of weight gain seen by many aging adults.
Scientists have long known that when the leptin hormone is given to obese mice there is a dramatic weight loss in a very short period of time. What they didn’t understand is why it didn’t work for humans. At least until now! For humans it is not about increasing the amount of leptin rather it is about properly restoring leptin sensitivity.
Clinical Studies and Leptin Sensitivity!
Clinical studies on humans have shown that as leptin sensitivity is increased, appetite control is restored and fat cells are properly broken down to help with weight loss and weight management issues. In a 2008 study published in Nutrition, humans taking a nutritional supplement designed to properly manage this metabolic syndrome lost 28 pounds over a 10-week period compared to less than 3 pounds lost in the placebo group. What is even more impressive is that these clinical participants did not alter their diet in any way.
This clinical study, as well as several others, centered on an extract from a little-known West and Central African tree called Irvingia gabonensis. This deciduous tree produces an edible yellow fruit that contains seeds. It is an extract from these seeds that has been the focus of several clinical studies on weight loss.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 40 obese individuals, those who utilized the Irvingia ganonensis extract over a one month time period experienced:
Those participants in the placebo group did not experience any significant changes in their blood lipid levels and only a 1.32 percent decrease in their body weight. The results of this study are important not only because of the significant weight loss but also because of the significant improvement in blood chemistry especially as it relates to cardiovascular health and cholesterol levels. The Irvingia extract promotes weight loss in multiple ways.
To date the studies using the Irvingia extract have induced more weight loss in a shorter period of time than any other compound tested. In addition to the weight loss, the clinical participants also had significant improvements in their body composition as well as measurable improvements in blood chemistry risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular health. Most of the clinical studies used a dose of 150 mg of standardized Irvingia extract taken twice daily 30 minutes prior to their two largest meals with 8 ounces of water or juice.
Because the standardized Irvingia extract is so effective in lowering total cholesterol levels, those using a cholesterol-lowering drug need to have their blood cholesterol levels checked on a regular basis. Typically this would mean being tested every 30 days. The optimal range for total cholesterol ranges from 180 to 200 mg/dL. If the total cholesterol drops below 160, then ask your medical professional to consider reducing or eliminating your cholesterol-lowering drug.
If you have low blood sugar or are a diabetic taking medication to lower your blood sugar levels, then you also need to use caution since the standardized Irvingia extract can affect your blood sugar levels. Make sure that you monitor your blood sugar. If your levels drop too low, then work with your medical professional to either lower your medication or discontinue it altogether.
The recent clinical studies have clearly shown the importance of the leptin hormone in helping to control age-related weight gain. It is not a matter of increasing the amount of the leptin hormone but rather freeing up this hormone so that it can once again do its job. When properly mobilized by the body, the leptin hormone can effectively turn off your appetite while helping your body to better utilize fat as an energy source rather than storing it in your fat cells. However, you will still need to remember that nothing will offset excess caloric intake from overeating except increasing your caloric expenditure through exercise or additional daily activities.
Until next time, may we both age youthfully!
P.S. As a convenience, I’ve also included links to the following Weight Management articles:
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