Leptin and Ghrelin: Scientific Proof That Obesity Is a Matter of Hormones
It is a common belief that fat people are made so either because of a medical condition or because they eat too much without having enough physical exercise or control over their culinary desires. Additionally, it is the common belief that fat people only need to starve a bit to lose the extra weight.
As of 1997 this entire concept can be considered wrong. Obesity, according to the new scientific discoveries, is a biological matter and not an issue of laziness, weak wills, and gluttony.
We all know about the little molecules of our body called hormones. For some inexplicable reason, they have been connected only with our sexual activities when they are actually responsible for almost everything that happens to our bodies. To put it as simply as possible, their main purpose for being is to act as messengers. They transfer various messages from one organ to another. And these messages finally make it to the brain, which then instructs each organ what to do.
Our body works by consuming energy. To have energy reserves to use when necessary, it must receive it in the form of food. The optimal condition is achieved when there is energy homeostasis, which means that the food consumed is equal to the energy required by the body to perform all its operations.
When the energy reserves are not sufficient, a hormone called ghrelin undertakes the job of transferring the message to the brain that “You are hungry and you need to eat!” In response, the mind gives the order to sit down in front of a table and enjoy a good meal.
When the food has lined up our stomachs, ghrelin is satisfied (so to speak) and stops sending the message. But someone must tell the brain “Hey! You’ve had enough! Time to stop!” This task is undertaken by another little molecule called leptin.
When both messages are received and understood by the brain, the balance is optimal and everything is fine. But, through the reasons explored in this piece, it is a frequent case that the brain stops understanding the message transmitted by leptin. Medically this is called developing leptin resistance and is a situation very similar to insulin resistance, which is the reason behind diabetes type 2.
Of course, when the brain doesn’t understand the message, it doesn’t give the order to stop eating and leave the table. I.e. we keep eating until it’s our stomach which sends out the message: “Hey! I can’t take anymore! Stop!” After that, it’s the natural process for the body to convert the extra food to fat and store it around the waist.
But how exactly is this “leptin resistance” developed? Let’s start with inflammation. There are food categories that cause leptin to act erratically and in panic. At that point, one could say that the message is incoherent. Instead of saying “enough food”, it says something like “henugo dofo”. (That’s oversimplified, but you get the point).
Then comes monosodium glutamate. Most of you know it as MSG. This is a leptin suppressant. I.e. it does not allow the message to be sent. Where do people eat MSG? In every fast food joint and whenever their meals include processed food. There are even cases where the food is considered healthy and MSG is hidden.
It is most unfortunate, but the next cause for leptin resistance is fructose. It does not allow leptin to reach the normal levels in the bloodstream after a meal has been completed and counteract the message sent by ghrelin. It is most unfortunate because fructose is the basic ingredient in fruit and there is an increasing number of scientists who claim that we cannot eat more than 25 grams of fruit per day (just one piece).
And here comes the big bang! Low-calorie diets actually have the exact opposite effect than what they are supposed to. Why? Because they reduce the leptin levels in the bloodstream. Exhaustive diets reduce the fat mass. Less fat mass results in less leptin in the blood to initiate the procedure to burn the fat. And less leptin, means more ghrelin. This is why after such a diet you regain all of the weight that you have lost and even more.
And here comes the interesting conundrum of the day. When leptin resistance is developed, people get fat. When they get fat, the levels of leptin in the bloodstream are increased. This constitutes an overdose (so to speak) and even more leptin resistance is developed. And the need is to break this cycle.
How? By returning the mind to what is called leptin sensitivity. To put it simply to allow the mind to understand the message again. While there is a diet that can achieve that, other issues are more important than the food consumed. The basics are:
• Do not eat after dinner. How many of you have your dinner and then sit on a couch surrounded by bags of snacks?
• Eat in specific intervals. There must be three meals per day. Breakfast, lunch exactly six hours after breakfast and dinner exactly six hours after lunch.
• Eat slowly and avoid large meals. Leptin catches up 10 to 20 minutes after each mouthful. Eating slowly means that leptin catches up before we eat everything that’s on the table.
• Eat breakfast no later than 30 minutes after waking up and include protein. Under no circumstances skip breakfast. And probably this is the most important issue at hand as the vast majority of people skip breakfast and go to work with just a cup of coffee. This is a clear indication to develop leptin resistance and get fat.
• Respect the circadian circles and eat the food that is in season. There is a reason why nature arranged for the different food types to have a specific season where they ripen. They are most nutritious.
Did you see anything about calories, specific foods, or food plans? No! Because there aren’t any. You can eat whatever you want as long as you avoid the foods that create the problem. Don’t get it wrong. It’s not completely forbidden to have a juicy cheeseburger every now and then. But that’s just it. Every now and then. Not every day.