Never heard of it before yesterday. Leptin is an energy controlling hormone excreted by fat cells. It turns out that leptin is mentioned once in the book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. I am going to quote the SINGLE mention of this hormone at length. We will discuss after:
One consequence of this sub-specialization of modern medicine is the belief, often cited in the lay press , that the causes of obesity and the common chronic diseases are complex and thus no simple answer can be considered seriously. Individuals involved in treating or studying these ailments will stay abreast of the latest “breakthroughs” in relevant fields— the discovery of allegedly cancer-fighting phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables, of genes that predispose us to obesity or diabetes, of molecules such as leptin and ghrelin that are involved in the signaling of energy supply and demand around the body. They will assume rightfully, perhaps, that the mechanisms of weight regulation and disease are complex, and then make the incorrect assumption that the fundamental causes must also be complex. They lose sight of the observations that must be explained— the prevalence of obesity and chronic disease in modern societies and the relationship between them— and they forget that Occam’s razor applies to this science, just as it does to all sciences: do not invoke a complicated hypothesis to explain the observations, if a simple hypothesis will suffice.
Taubes, Gary (2007-09-25). Good Calories, Bad Calories (Kindle Locations 324-332). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Yesterday I watched the latest installment of the HBO documentary “Weight of the Nation:The Biology of Weight Loss“. Clinical studies are being performed that actually control the variables associated with gaining or losing weight. The researchers documented here discovered that YOUR body will do everything it can to maintain it’s normal weight. Apparently an obese person’s normal weight setting is at a value much higher than a lean person’s. Apparently there is a hormone excreted by fat cells (leptin) that controls hunger pangs, among other things. A person that is fasting experiences a reduction in fat cells, but simultaneously experiences a reduction in energy usage by muscles, and an overall reduction in resting metabolism. If you eat less, your body automatically ramps down your energy usage to compensate, resisting your efforts to lose weight. It also makes you famished and changes the way that you think about food. It drives you crazy so that you will once again eat, so as to maintain your setpoint weight. Once you are done fasting your leptin levels ensure that you will eat enough to regain the weight.
After hearing about leptin for the first time, this morning I Googled it. Guess what, there is a pill you can take. There is a great deal of information on the internet about leptin.
Reread the passage above from Taubes.
…they forget that Occam’s razor applies to this science, just as it does to all sciences: do not invoke a complicated hypothesis to explain the observations, if a simple hypothesis will suffice.
Leptin moves up and down in Lock Step with insulin. Ergo, the things that cause insulin system over reaction are liable to be the same things that cause ‘leptin resistance’ or your body’s ability to ignore leptin signals of fullness or overreact in the direction of hunger. If your insulin level is constantly high, if you were starving recently (on a diet), if you are obese, then whatever caused your obesity originally has your insulin and leptin hormones out of whack. Here is Dr Oz on what seems to cause leptin resistance:
If you’re eating lots of foods with high-fructose corn syrup or lots of carbs, or if you’re very stressed or sleep deprived, you’re more likely to feel like you have an appetite you just can’t satisfy.
In short, the (non-negotiable) factors that will help improve leptin response are:
- Eating little to no simple starches, refined foods, sugars and fructose
- Consuming a large amount of protein and healthy fats first thing in the morning, as soon after waking as possible. This promotes satiety and gives the body the building blocks to make hormones. My go-to is a large scramble with 2-3 eggs, vegetables and left over meat from the night before cooked in coconut oil.
- Be in bed by ten (no excuses) and optimize your sleep!
- Get outside during the day, preferably barefoot on the ground, in mid-day sun with some skin exposed. There are many reasons this is helpful and I’ll be explaining them soon)
- DON’T SNACK!!! When you are constantly eating, even small amounts, during the day it keeps your liver working and doesn’t give hormones a break. Try to space meals at least 4 hours apart and don’t eat for at least 4 hours before bed. This includes drinks with calories but herbal teas, water, coffee or tea without cream or sugar are fine.
- Don’t workout at first. If you are really Leptin resistant, this will just be an additional stress on the body. Let your body heal a little first, then add in the exercise.
- When you do exercise, do only sprints and weight lifting. Walk or swim if you want to but don’t do cardio just for the sake of cardio. It’s just a stress on the body. High intensity and weight lifting, on the other hand, give the hormone benefits of working out without the stress from excess cardio and are great after the first few weeks. Also, workout in the evening, not the morning, to support hormone levels.
- Remove toxins from your life as these are a stress on your body. There will be more specifics on how to accomplish this in the next few weeks, but getting rid of processed foods, commercial deodorants (make your own) and comercial soap (use microfiber) will go a long way!
- Eat (or take) more Omega-3s (fish, grassfed meats, chia seeds) and minimize your Omega-6 consumption (vegetable oils, conventional meats, grains, etc) to get lower inflammation and help support healthy leptin levels.
So, let us apply Occam’s Razor to this problem. Eating carbohydrate causes high insulin levels. Insulin levels that fall as your blood sugar falls cause tiredness (low energy) and hunger–both symptoms of the hormone leptin. Eating more carbs (snacking) to satisfy hunger bring insulin back up and the cycle repeats. Fructose can only be metabolized into fat by the liver. Starches and sugars are metabolized into fat. Fat cells cause leptin levels to rise. Over a lifetime of eating this way your ‘normal’ weight setpoint gradually moves higher and higher. Obesity is not an acute illness, it is a gradual, chronic illness.
Now let me throw in a couple of more FACTS that I know by personal experimentation. If you don’t eat any carbohydrate, if you only eat real meat raised on it’s natural forage, you will not get hungry, despite eating far less calories than you normally eat. You don’t get hungry. You don’t have insulin spikes or crashes. Without any scientific data to back me up, I would bet that the lack of post-meal fatigue and post-meal hunger also means that my leptin levels are following the lead of my insulin levels and are not overreacting.
I am not losing weight rapidly. I don’t think losing weight rapidly is desirable. I didn’t gain weight rapidly, so losing it rapidly would be as alarming to my body as putting on ten pounds per week. I would rush to the doctor if that happened. I would know that I was sick if I went from 160 to 170 pounds in just a month! I can understand the obese wanting it gone as quickly as possible, but it is my sincere belief that if the obese quit eating carbohydrates they will lose a great deal of water weight immediately and then lose their fat at the rate that they gained it. As a bonus, they won’t be hungry all the time, and their body won’t be fighting them by lowering their metabolism and making them crazy about food.
I wish I could get one obese person to just eat meat for a month or two to see if any of this works for them. It worked for me. I went on a meat-only diet for a month. I didn’t experience any symptoms of vitamin deficiency. I didn’t experience any unusual fatigue or lethargy. My mind was just as sharp as it ever was. I am still on a greatly reduced carb intake, and I am still as sharp as ever. I do not fear a diet devoid of carbohydrate in any way. I do not fear red meat. I do not fear saturated fats. I think the true paleo diet would involve eating naturally raised animals internal organs. I may try eating internal organs this year (offal). Medieval society valued the internal organs in their diet far more than the primal cuts that we eat today. Offal only fell out of favor when we began getting meats that were processed in central rendering plants, and it was too hard to get the offal to the public without it spoiling.
Am I surprised that you can take a leptin supplement? No. It will not work to lower your weight if you continue to eat carbohydrates. It does not matter to the leptin seller that you won’t get what you want from eating leptin. Eating leptin will be just as useful to you as eating insulin would be. Ever wonder why there isn’t an insulin pill? I just said that without Googling it, for all I know there might be an insulin pill.
The solution to the problem is to quit eating carbohydrate. Diets don’t work because your body will resist efforts to lower your weight. Watch the documentary where they describe this better that I can here…a picture is worth another thousand words.
My advice, as always:quit eating processed foods (this includes ‘health powders’), eat real, single ingredient foods. Eat real meat from a local farmer, grown on its natural forage. Don’t avoid the natural fats from meat and contained in meat, they are where your energy should come from.