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Leptin and Ghrelin

Leptin and Ghrelin - Not a comedy duo

Leptin & ghrelin. Not a comedy duo, but certain potential pet names.

Two hormones you should know, because they know you. Especially if you are over forty and trying to lose or manage your weight.

Let's get down to where it all starts and why the odds just might be stacked against you.

As I age, the weight seems to find me. I walk past a potato and bang, I put on weight. I wanted to know why; what drives my appetite? Also, how other than being told to exercise, and avoid junk food and sugar, could hack my body to make this easier and me thinner? Is that even possible?

So, firstly as you age, metabolisms will slow, systems get less efficient, hormone levels change and before you know it there is 10 KG more of you to love.

We all know about dieting, low-calorie diets, high protein diets, 5-minute abs, 7-minute abs, and the list goes on, usually supplied by young fabulous people who have no idea or understanding of what middle age can do to a man or woman for that fact. The list of diets goes on, and yet we all tend to fail miserably. Why?

We decided to dig into why our bodies are making fools of us, and ignoring our desire to stay healthy and live a long healthy life. We know what we need to do, I even did it, and yet here we are. Most of the country is either overweight or obese.

Leptin and Ghrelin

OK enough. Let me introduce you to Leptin and Ghrelin and give you some tips to put them into the doghouse.

Leptin - A hormone your fat (adipose tissue) releases to help regulate the balance between food intake and energy expenditure. Higher levels prevent hunger and help avoid a hunger response.

Ghrelin - A gut hormone that stimulates food intake, AKA a hunger hormone as it controls appetite and fitness. Signals your brain when you are hungry.

Leptin and Ghrelin

Leptin decreases your appetite and Ghrelin increases it. Ironic that leptin is released by fat tissue. Leptin is also the longer-term regulator of energy, which can suppress food intake and induce weight loss, while Ghrelin is more a fast-acting short-term MF that makes you succumb to cravings and can drive poor buckets of fried chicken food choices.

The longer you diet, and the more you diet, hello to Ghrelin levels increasing which is why so many diets are destined to fail.

Can you up your Leptin levels?

There is no evidence you can boost Leptin through foods, but a poor diet and extra weight can make this hormone LESS effective. If your brain is telling you to eat more, you may have Leptin resistance.

Leptin deficiency is on the other hand rare. No such thing as a Leptin supplement. No evidence that Leptin injections work unless you are one of the 100-odd people in the world with a deficiency.

Need to avoid building Leptin resistance, which means avoiding highly processed foods which can compromise the integrity of your gut and drive inflammation. Eat fibre to improve gut health.

Can you beat Ghrelin?

Trust your body, it will tell you what it wants. Until it doesn't stop! The brain can be tricked by the body into overeating (1). The signal for hunger, i.e., Ghrelin can be a lie.

First lesson. Not every craving is true, your stomach can lie. We are not capable of deliberating food choices; we default to habit (2).

Let's talk self-control. This can strengthen and weaken during the day and is linked to physical energy. Will power takes energy and the best way to deal with this is to avoid triggers that derail self-control. Ultimately you should build and rather rely on good habits. Healthy food choice habits help avoid indulgences.

To beat Ghrelin, cravings need to be managed. Avoid triggers and build healthy habits.

Reduce or minimise Ghrelin levels?

3 meals a day will help keep levels stable. A fibre-rich diet with adequate protein, exercise, managing your stress and enough sleep is a good start. 

3 reasons we eat. (1) Hunger (2) Enjoyment (3) Fuel

5 reasons we stop eating: (1) Feel full (2) Flavour, look or texture (3) Finish what's available (4) Get bored with the taste (5) Time.

These impact the battle between satiety (fullness) and pleasure. The pleasure centre can get really creative with reasons to eat, "you'll never see food like this again", " you can't waste such great food", "it will go off in the fridge", "you can diet tomorrow" and so the reasons go on ad nauseum from your internal voice. That little voice can be convincing and it's a short-term gain, eat now versus maybe lose some weight in 2 weeks. Whatever... As so you grow.

Cheat sheet

 Keep your Leptin and Ghrelin regulated with:

  1. FIBRE: Strawberries, avocado, oats, apples, carrots, broccoli, beans, almonds, sweet potatoes and dark chocolate.
    Help control hunger, prevent overeating, and increase meal satisfaction.

  2. LIMIT SUGAR (fructose): Limit fruits like figs, pears, dates, vegetables incl. mushrooms, asparagus, onions, red peppers, and honey as well as table sugar.
    High fructose diets can increase Ghrelin and thus increase appetite. Less sugar helps the body regulate insulin and glucagon levels.

  3. COMPLEX CARBS: Eat your peas beans, whole wheat bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and quinoa. 
    Digest consistently and avoid spikes in blood sugar.

  4. START THE DAY WITH PROTEIN: High protein diets can produce sustained reductions in appetite (1).
    Protein shakes are a great way to kick start the metabolism in the morning and also reduce hunger which reduces Ghrelin.

  5. EXERCISE, more specifically HIIT: They stimulate HGH which boosts fat burning, which helps regulate Leptin levels. Exercise also, improves Leptin sensitivity and the ability to regulate Leptin.
    Also increases muscle mass and fat-free muscle is associated with lower levels of Ghrelin.

  6. AVOID CALORIE RESTRICTED DIETS: This can cause metabolism to slow as with reduction in Leptin levels.

  7. SLEEP: Or your body stops Leptin and makes more Ghrelin, and we know where that ends.
    Weight gain.

  8. INFLAMMATORY RESPONSE: Avoid junk food, and control blood sugar to help reduce inflammation in the gut.
    Inflammation drives Leptin resistance which is a known cause of obesity.

  9. VITAMINS AND MINERALS. Association of Vitamin C, Zinc, and Vitamin C. But inconclusive and worth reading the research first (2).

  10. FASTING: Time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting have been associated with improvements in Leptin sensitivity.
    Also believed to help control inflammation.

  11. REDUCE STRESS: Chronic stress can elevate Ghrelin.
    Learn stress management techniques.

  12. HEALTHY FATS: Try to get some healthy fat into every meal, support nutrient absorption, and help manage hormones.

 Good luck.

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