Leptin, Ghrelin, and Weight Gain

Control of food intake. Human hormones. Leptin, insulin and Ghrelin. Leptin and the regulation of energy balance

Control of food intake. Human hormones. Leptin, insulin and Ghrelin. Leptin and the regulation of energy balance


Leptin is a hormone that suppresses the desire to eat, stimulates the metabolic rate, and helps with long-term energy in the body.  Leptin is produced in adipose (fat) tissue and enters the circulatory system, making its way to the hypothalamus gland in the brain. Your brain then signals the body to let it know that you’ve had enough to eat.

Research has established that obese people are leptin resistant due to overeating which results in the hypothalamus becoming less sensitive to leptin. Separate studies have also shown that too much fructose as well as sleep deprivation can create a resistance to leptin.

Corn generated ethanol biofuel with test tubes on white backgroundChronic fructose (think high fructose corn syrup) consumption induces leptin resistance. One problem with all of the high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar we consume is a reduction in circulating leptin concentrations and we never experience feeling full.

Recent studies show that sleep deprivation accompanied by an increase in stress levels not only affects normal blood sugar balance, but it decreases leptin and increases hunger and appetite.  How much sleep do we really need?  The National Sleep Foundation sugg
ests starting with 7 to 9 hours each night for adults, but asks:

  • “Are you productive, healthy and happy on 7 hours of sleep, or does it take 9 hours?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
  • Do you feel sleepy while driving?
  • Are you experiencing sleep problems?”

Sleep should not be considered a luxury, but should be made a priority in your weight loss program.  Create a regular bedtime routine about an hour before sleep.  Make sure the room is quiet and dark – that means no television, computer, cell phone, Kindle, or iPad near or in the bed.  It is also important to finish that last meal or snack 2-3 hours before sleep. That means no snacking during the night!


Leptin’s counterpart hormone, ghrelin, is secreted by the stomach and increases the desire to eat.  It also enters the bloodstream on its way to the hypothalamus.

One study showed that a single night of sleep deprivation can increase ghrelin levels, increasing feelings of hunger. Those who conducted the study came to the conclusion that “our results provide further evidence for a disturbing influence of sleep loss on endocrine regulation of energy homeostasis, which on the long run may result in weight gain and obesity.” (1)







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