Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Overeating: Leptin and Ghrelin, meet Yin and Yang.

This post will have some big, strange and scary words, but it could save your life.

In the spirit of Robb Wolf, I'll start with a short nod to brevity and jump to the conclusion.

Get plenty of sleep.
Eat a lot of low-cal veggies.
Avoid fructose.

Now for the science:

My last post was a rather dense video.  I wish to take some concepts mentioned in it and explain them well,  so that we all may understand them better.

A 2004 study doesn't do so well at predicting weight loss for high-fat diets, but it does do a "strictly the facts" take on leptin and ghrelin release.  In short, ghrelin stimulates hunger, while leptin satisfies it.  

This doesn't mean that ghrelin is bad or evil.  It has a vital role to play.  For one, it stimulates growth hormone, and it plays a role in dopamine production. It is also thought to play a role in our lung development as we grow in the womb.  You need ghrelin, but you want it at certain levels throughout the day.

But ghrelin makes us hungry, and since a lot of you guys are looking to pack on 20 to 30 extra pounds, you're wanting to ask:

"Rusty, how can I sabotage my body's hormone balance and gain lots of weight by spiking ghrelin and making myself feel super hungry?"

First off, get inadequate sleep.  Sleep deprivation produces ghrelin and lowers leptin, which makes you hungry.

Secondly, eat tons of fructose, which is found in table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and fruit.  While complex carbs like potatoes produce leptin and suppress ghrelin (making us feel full), fructose hangs out in our liver and thwarts our body's best attempts to say "enough is enough."

So lay off the agave nectar, folks.  

Our second hormone, leptin, is some great stuff.  It inhibits our appetite, and it's produced by our fat cells.  It's our body's own bullet-proof self-defense mechanism. That's right folks, the fatter we get, the less hungry we get.  Leptin is even being studied as another route to treat diabetes. 

Once again, I know what you are thinking.

"Rusty, how can I sabotage my body's hormones by lowering my leptin levels and make myself feel super hungry?"

Get inadequate sleep. This will lower your leptin levels.
Exercise fanatically. You know those chunky folks on the elliptical for 2 hours a day, let them be your new role-model.  
Be a dude and have lots of testosterone. Man-children produce less of the stuff.
Skip 4 or 5 meals in a row.

But there's a catch.

Like insulin, heavier people tend to develop resistance to leptin.  Out bodies tune out the super-high levels, so we become less sensitive to our own satiety signals.

Here are some tips for increasing your sensitivity to this appetite blunting hormone:

Avoid fructose.  This stuff causes all sorts of issues.  That's right, put down the banana and the RC Cola. You'll live without them.

Eat "real" vegetables.  Eating 2 pounds of kale and another pound of spinach might not sound like fun, but low-energy foods seem to help.  (Why else would a salad make us feel full?)  This seems to be one of the key factors that Atkins missed.

Well, good luck!

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