“Why am I always hungry?” Is that a question you often ask yourself, even after meals? If so, you could have leptin resistance. Leptin, a hormone produced by body fat, controls whether or not you feel full after eating.
Someone with normal leptin function will feel satisfied after eating until it’s time for the next meal. This is because the body secretes leptin when you’ve had enough to eat and tells your brain you’re full.
Leptin Resistance Causes Hunger in Overweight Individuals
Because adipose (fat) cells secrete leptin, you would think that a person who is overweight would have plenty of leptin and hence never feel hungry. Unfortunately, this is not true. Excess fat tissue in the body creates excess leptin and leads to leptin resistance, which causes feelings of hunger, even if a person has already had enough to eat. In other words, there is too much leptin circulating in the bloodstream, which overwhelms the body’s cells. In order to protect themselves, the cells shut down their receptors for leptin, thus causing leptin resistance. With no leptin getting into cells, the brain never receives the message it is full, and a person is prone to overeating. In addition to increasing appetite, leptin serves a double whammy by promoting more fat storage. It’s a vicious roller-coaster that makes successful weight loss very difficult!
Leptin is also important for fertility, libido, and puberty, making proper diet and leptin sensitivity important for developing children. In fact, leptin resistance could explain why obese girls are 80 percent more likely to start puberty earlier than normal.
Overeating Caused By High Triglycerides
Leptin resistance isn’t the only battle in the fight against overeating. High triglycerides have been shown to block leptin’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (a thin lining that protects the brain) to deliver its satiety signal to the brain. Sugars and carbohydrate-rich foods, such as breads, pasta, rice, and potatoes, raise triglycerides considerably, thus blocking leptin’s ability to tell your brain you’re full.
Diet Can Reverse Feelings of Hunger
If you’ve asked yourself, “Why am I always hungry?”, the first step you can take to normalize your leptin levels is to change your diet. Overeating and eating too many sweets and starchy foods lead to leptin resistance, high triglycerides, and hence the feelings of hunger and intense food cravings. Therefore, the key to unwinding leptin resistance is to adopt a leptin-sensitivity diet that can also help you shed unwanted pounds.
What is a Leptin-Sensitivity Diet?
If you want to overcome leptin resistance and never again ask yourself, “Why am I always hungry?”, consider these leptin-lowering facts:
- Ditch the sweets and sodas. Sugar and corn syrup has been shown to directly make the brain resistant to leptin. Sweets also raise triglycerides so leptin can’t reach the brain.
- Eat a lower-carb diet. Starchy foods (pasta, rice, breads, potatoes, corn, pastries, etc.) spike blood sugar and insulin levels. This in turn increases leptin.
- Consume healthy fats such as coconut oil, butter, ghee, uncooked olive oil, avocado, salmon, etc. Adequate, healthy fats turn on leptin’s satiety switch.
- Consider taking a fish or krill oil supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids modulate leptin.
Remember that overeating causes leptin resistance, which promotes food cravings. Cutting sodas, sweets, high-carb and processed foods, in addition to adding healthy fats will help curb these cravings. Also, don’t forget to exercise regularly. Exercise, particularly strength training and interval training, helps lower leptin.
 Childhood obesity brings early puberty for girls. By Phil McKenna. New Scientist. March 5, 2007.
 Triglycerides induce leptin resistance at the blood-brain barrier. Diabetes. 2004 May;53(5):1253-60.
 Mastering Leptin: Your Guide to Permanent Weight Loss and Optimum Health. Richard and Mary Guignon Richards. Wellness Resources, May 2009.
Originally published on July 3, 2012.