Two Lead Actors in Losing Weight and The Ways to Rule Them: Leptin and Ghrelin

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You, too, must have experienced before. You discipline yourself and manage to lose some weight with the help of a low-calorie diet. After a few weeks, process of losing weight slows down and the sense of hunger becomes unbearable. Inevitable eating attacks lead to feeling of guilt and eventually destroy your diet. Generally, reduced weight is gained and you put on even more.

You should know that it is not your fault. And the good news is that there may be some ways to take the scales down without the consequences like increased appetite and weight gain-back. Here are two hormones we need to get acquainted closely with to understand the underlying mechanisms: leptin and ghrelin.

Leptin and Ghrelin, with some other hormones, are the most important ones to control the sense of hunger. Simply, ghrelin tells us that we are hungry and we should eat and leptin tells us to stop eating.

Leptin plays a big role in appetite signalization, ghrelin, on the other hand, is a quickly effecting hormone and produces signals to eat right away. In fact, many chemicals act in appetite control but the most important is certainly leptin. It was understood only a few years ago, when a mouse was injected with leptin, it was noticed that the animal slimmed just over a night. Although this took pharmaceutical industry’s breath away, same success could not be reached in human beings. However, it was understood that normal leptin levels are crucial to control eating.

What is leptin?

-Leptin is produced by fat cells.

-It derives from Greek word “leptos”, which interestingly means “thin”

-It is released in blood when enough calorie is taken.

-It reduces the sense of appetite.

-It helps calorie burning by increasing the metabolic speed.

-Leptin levels go down in 24-72 hours of hunger even if no change is observed in fat tissue.

-Leptin levels increase in obese people with sleeping apnea, decreases with CPAP treatment. In non-obese people, leptin levels normalize with a resting sleep.

-Disrupted sleeping takes leptin levels down.

-Emotional stress increases leptin levels. The rise in oestrogen causes the rise in leptin.

-Physical exercise reduces leptin levels permanently.
-Leptin increases with dexamethasone and insulin.

-Leptin increases with dexamethasone and insulin.

-Leptin rises paradoxically in obesity.

What is ghrelin?

It is released from fundus in stomach.

-It gives the signal to start the eating behavior.

-It reacts to low-calorie diets to protect the body weight.

If your leptin goes down and many receptors open, this leads to the production of ghrelin and signals of hunger to your brain. Fasting makes you hungry, sleeplessness makes you hungry, stress makes you hungry.

If we put all this information into practice, restricting calories to lose weight creates a bigger reaction by increasing ghrelin and decreasing leptin. In this way, appetite goes even higher and becomes harder to control. That means the lost weight comes back.

We said the rise of leptin in blood oppresses appetite but it increases in obese people because of the high fat concentration. Leptin resistance is observed in these people, just like insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes. Thus, even if leptin is high, it is useless in controlling the weight.

On the other hand, we know that a restriction is inevitable to dissolve the fat in reserves. So, how can we solve this problem? Firstly, we should give up seeing any diet or method as a miraculous solution. The way to create calorie deficit without getting appetite crisis and resistance to leptin and ghrelin is obvious. You should reduce calories but never more than enough. Crash diets and low-calorie diets damage your metabolism in a huge way. You should find ways to decrease your calorie amount without feeling hungry. You can get help from a nutrition specialist about this.

Three Secrets to Manage Leptin and Ghrelin for a Successful Weight Loss

  1. 10 Rule: We have learnt that reducing the calorie in a certain amount leads to problems about leptin and ghrelin. So, let’s apply this rule. Find your ideal weight and multiply it with 10. Your calorie consumption should not be less than this. You should also try to count calories without making it an obsession.
  2. Consume low-fat and high-fiber foods as soon as possible. The role of fibres in fullness is huge. Leptin and ghrelin are affected by not only the size and frequency of the portions but also the composition of them. For example, portions with low-fat-high-carb increases the leptin concentration. High-fat menus reduce 24-hour of ghrelin levels even more than high-carb ones. Low-fat diets have an oppressive effect on ghrelin levels. According to a study, low fat-high carb diet leads to weight loss without increasing plasm ghrelin levels.
  3. Move: Exercise strengthens leptin mechanisms. Only half-an-hour exercise can do that.

Don’t forget that diets restricting calories chronically may lead to eating mistakes to make your weight loss aims unsuccessful. Your body does everything with a purpose. Weight loss might be possible with a low-fat, vegetable based diet composing of unprocessed food.

We know that resistance to leptin is possible. Both leptin and ghrelin interact with nucleus accumbens area, known as rewarding center of brain. This area is responsible for feeling good, and activated by rewards such as food or sex. At the same time, it is believed to have a connection with addiction. However, in obesity as fatty tissue increases leptin levels do, too, making you insusceptible to leptin. As you get insusceptible, you feel hungrier. A lot of people complain that they can’t lose weight even if they are on a diet and they exercise. Now you know why.

There is also a “set point theory”. According to this, you feel comfortable at a stable, long-term weight figure and your body does not want it to change. When you start losing weight, your survival mechanisms are triggered and they begin working to prevent weight loss. However hard you try to be healthy and lose weight, your body thinks something is wrong and tries to stop it. However much kilos you have, your body thinks that it is on the way to death and tries to survive when you lose weight. It is easy to understand if we consider our primitive ancestors.

Leptin levels decrease in blood when we lose weight with a diet. This leads to a fall in thyroid activity, sympathetic nervous system tone, and energy consumption of muscles. Eventually, balance mechanisms takes your basal metabolic speed down in the figures below set values that body has defined. This change also has some impacts on brain areas responsible for the emotional and cognitive controls of appetite.

In conclusion, obesity surgery does a very different thing than diet. It resets metabolism by breaking the vicious leptin-ghrelin cycle resulting from calorie restriction. Thus, our set point value and basal metabolism are redefined. Increasing activity after obesity surgery, disappearance of hunger sense, feeling cold more are just some of the indicators of this. Obesity surgery is not only a help for your diet by minimizing your stomach, but it is a very radical intervention to your disrupted metabolic balance.

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