Fix Your Fat Fighting Hormones Day 3: Leptin

By Kate Horney


Yesterday we talked about the hunger hormone ghrelin, which causes your body to feel hungry.  Today, we’ll cover another hormone that may be making you fat: Leptin.

Leptin is a hunger hormone, which is considered the counterpart to the hunger hormone ghrelin, and is produced by the adipose (fat) tissue. Leptin signals to your brain to let you know that you’re full.   When leptin levels are high, your brain knows that it’s full and tells you to stop eating.  

Normally, Ghrelin and leptin will work like a system of checks and balances… but what happens when one of these hormones is out of balance?


When you are craving food, it is an indication that you are not producing leptin. When lepin levels are low, you will naturally feel hungry and crave certain foods.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Leptin is produced in your adipose tissue.  The amount of leptin circulating in your body is directly proportional to your body composition (ie: your fat to muscle ratio).
  2. Leptin stimulates receptors in your hypothalamus (the part of your brain that regulates the hormone system in your body).  When leptin binds to these receptors in your brain, it stimulates a release of appetite suppressing chemicals.
  3. When leptin levels are high, you feel full.  If leptin levels are low, you feel hungry.


Interestingly,  because leptin is produced in the fat tissue, the higher % of fat you have, the more leptin you have.

While this may seem like a good thing, since leptin keeps you full, the issue comes with yo-yo dieting. Because it takes your body time for metabolic hormones to balance after changes in body fat levels, if you lose too weight quickly without keeping metabolic hormones balance during the progress, leptin levels will decrease drastically, causing hunger to increase significantly, and ultimately- a regain of lost weight is likely.   Thus, the yo-yo effect. 

This is why low calorie diets without proper balance of these  hormones are ineffective for the long term.



So how do you balance leptin?

3 Steps to Balance Leptin

  1. Sleep. The number 1 way to balance leptin is by sleeping.  Lepin levels naturally rise during sleep.  This is your body’s way of staying asleep, rather than waking with hunger. When you are sleeping your body knows limit hunger in order to let you rest.  But when you limit sleep, your body will naturally adjust by making you hungry again.  Studies show that short sleep periods (antyhing less than 6 hours) is directly related to lower daily leptin levels, increase in appetiete and even increase in cravings of high carb, high fat foods.  Making sleep is a priority for optimal healthy, fitness and hormonal balance.
  2. Stop crash diets. Losing weight too quickly without paying attention to balanced hormones is a sure-fire way to cause leptin issues, increasing hunger and cravings and ultimately causing a yo-yo of weight loss and re-gain.  (Read more here about 3 ways dieting makes you fat)
  3. Avoid high sugar foods. Sugar makes your brain less sensitive to leptin, so if you want to work on leptin sensitivity and the balance of your hunger hormones, focus on high protein, fiber rich foods over sugar-filled and processed snacks.  


Check back everyday this week for the next post in this series!