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votes

Leptin Spectrum: One Big Question I’m Obsessing About, Now That I’ve Been on This Site for a Month

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 01, 2011 at 5:46 PM

I???ll start by saying that I really enjoy reading and participating in this site and I particularly am in awe of its excellent features such as badges, reputation, upvotes, comments, upvotes on comments, etc. I don???t know if this is unique or par for the course nowadays as I don???t read a ton of boards online but I???ve never seen anything like it and I want to give kudos to Patrik and the community that makes it all work.

The big question that is obsessing me right now:

How and when is this ???users with screwed up leptins wanting to lose fat??? and ???users with healthy leptins wanting to optimize fitness??? conflict going to get harmonized once and for all?

It seems that there is a spectrum of health on this site and what people on one end need is very different from what people on the other end find ok and helpful. Sub-questions:

  • (a) Leptin-Challenged Side of the Spectrum. I see certain answers, for example ???you don???t need to go VLC??? and ???you need to exercise more??? that might be perfectly perfect for people in the second category but not necessarily appropriate for people in the first category. I don???t see people making a fundamental distinction in their questions or answers a lot of the time. But sometimes I do see people doing that and it???s critically helpful. Are things at a point where two different websites are needed to avoid confusion? I hope not, but just asking. I???m particularly concerned that people new to Paleo and new to the site who are facing leptin/fat loss challenges won???t see the difference and will get advice that isn't going to take them in a good direction.

  • (b) Tubers. Another seemingly sensitive, related subject. Even when it comes to sweet potatoes, it doesn???t seem that people on the ???leptin resistant??? side of the spectrum can generally afford to eat them. It seems, however, that there are people who will defend the sweet potato across the board regardless. Rather than debating whether tubers are healthy or not, shouldn???t there just be a distinction when it comes to this food, that they're probably not great for people who are leptin resistant and overweight, and then when those issues get resolved then tubers (or at least some varieties) might be a great thing to add in when VLC isn???t necessary anymore?

  • (c) Gender. Especially toward the "resistant" side of that leptin spectrum, what works for men is often (usually?) different from what works for women. It seems like it's a sensitive and almost taboo subject, but why? According to The Quilt, when a man starts becoming leptin sensitive again he "will notice quick weight loss," but a woman ???will notice mood changes first??? and her sleep will improve, but ???weight may not change drastically initially. . . . This will change too if they continue moving forward.??? If this is true, then it's just biology and hormones, not a lack of willpower, that makes things more difficult for women. Is this a distinction that should be given more attention in people's questions and answers, like the distinction in (a) above?

Muchas gracias in advance for your thoughts and reactions. And please have mercy on me! I???m still very very new here.

Edited by author to eliminate a bunch of other questions that didn't belong in here.

P.S. by author: When I say "leptin resistance" I mean to include (wrong or right) insulin resistance, metabolic derangement, syndrome X, and other disorders of that nature. In Primal Body, Primal Mind (and I think also Paleo Solution, I'm starting to lose track here) the author puts leptin at the top of the list of the hormones that affect us in this dysfunctional way. http://www.primalbody-primalmind.com/?p=10

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on October 01, 2011
at 03:14 PM

Because glucose is a semi-essential nutrient, there is such thing as a glucose insufficiency http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?cat=105 zero carb diets can be dangerous, whereas 50-100g carb diets do not suffer from the same failings, and so I see zero carb diets as needlessly extreme.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on October 01, 2011
at 07:06 AM

Why is 0 carb mad?

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on August 05, 2011
at 05:31 PM

yeah, suppose I'll edit that.

91d422b073139d35e0856967ba1c21d6

(1054)

on August 05, 2011
at 05:11 PM

Is 0 zerb 0 carb? Or is there a new term I haven't yet learned? Great answer, the best here in my view.

Medium avatar

(3029)

on August 05, 2011
at 05:22 AM

"strive for health first" Right on!

C471216c9fb4fcf886b7ac84a4046b49

(1371)

on August 05, 2011
at 01:06 AM

i dont agree leptin should be as pressed as it is either, all it serves is a signal of body fat. if its high, like in fat people, diet and lose weight. if it is low, refeed and occassionally eat more. its like body temp, it only serves as a signal of the temp of your body

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 01, 2011
at 09:55 PM

I've been trying to get my head wrapped around this whole leptin thing too, and it if I'm understanding what I'm reading properly, and that material is painting a factual picture, it does appear that insulin resistance is somehow tied to leptin resistance, so I don't have any problem with the idea of discussing them together.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:48 PM

@pale-o-girl - yeah, i don't really think it's a great shorthand.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:44 PM

I'm also taking exception to the leptin paradigm you're presenting, like Vrimj, below. I see what you're getting at with the spectrum idea (fatties<--->skinnies), but my opinion is that leptin signaling, while ostensibly relevant to health and weight - is not a Paleo issue, per se, at all. No more than than, say, having flat feet. There is a certain prolific poster that got many ppl in a dither about leptin here. Anyway, regarding the spectrum, to me it seems like a given that it's up to the individual to adapt their diet appropriately... nothing is cut and dried.

91d422b073139d35e0856967ba1c21d6

(1054)

on August 01, 2011
at 07:36 PM

I think I'm using "leptin" as shorthand for a few different things referenced in these discussions -- insulin resistance, metabolic derangement, "syndrome X," etc. I was hoping "leptin" could be an umbrella for all of that but maybe not . . . .

1568416ef28477d1fa29046218d83ddd

(6235)

on August 01, 2011
at 07:20 PM

I think diet is important, but I don't think that leptin is the "one hormone" anymore than insulin or TSH or any of the rest of the metabolic cascade. We always want to make things easy and mechanical, but I think biology is more complex than that. I don't think we can't know, but I think acting like we DO know is a mistake.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on August 01, 2011
at 07:12 PM

the fact that studies supplementing leptin did not work to occur obesity didn't work didn't make leptin any less important. what it did was show that the problem was on the receptor side of the equation instead of the amount of the hormone. the studies found most obese people had high serum leptin levels- as they should- but there was faulty signaling at the receptor level. i don't think all the mechanisms have been figured out as far as why(gylcation and oxidation are known to be two factors) but it seems that a paleo diet seems to fix whatever the problems are after a period of time.

91d422b073139d35e0856967ba1c21d6

(1054)

on August 01, 2011
at 06:15 PM

Thanks very much for the feedback! Hopefully these three go together.

91d422b073139d35e0856967ba1c21d6

(1054)

on August 01, 2011
at 06:15 PM

Thanks for the feedback, I've edited now, hope these three go together.

91d422b073139d35e0856967ba1c21d6

(1054)

on August 01, 2011
at 06:08 PM

Done and done . . . hope this makes sense now!

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 01, 2011
at 05:59 PM

Just chiming in to request separate questions, too. I like them all (I'm especially fond of your dog question), but responding to them all at once is a bit much.

1568416ef28477d1fa29046218d83ddd

(6235)

on August 01, 2011
at 05:51 PM

I don't even know where to start here, is there a reason you put this all in one huge question instead of five smaller questions?

D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on August 01, 2011
at 05:50 PM

I would strongly suggest you split into multiple questions both for your benefit and others. The topics are too disjointed otherwise.

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6 Answers

best answer

9
Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on August 05, 2011
at 02:26 AM

(warning, long rambling post, might be repetitive and have errors)

The way to resolve the problem of people who have good metabolic health telling those who don't what they can and can't do is resolved by proportioning one's beliefs to the empirical evidence. That means not being a bunch of know-nothing loud-mouths who lost some weight one time or (usually) are in the process of gradually losing weight and repeatedly share what they did, or what they think they did that produced/produces the results. When people talk about changes in their diet and effects, they always neglect to portray the whole picture. There are tons of different factors that change with each dietary change and people are generally not going to be objective about what they changed unless it really is one simple thing at a time, give it 30 days and see. Did I cut out nuts and my tummy felt better so I started getting more exercise but then attributed the results to the lack of dietary nuts itself? People are going to attribute their results to the factors that their minds become fixated on, not necessarily what actually caused the changes. This tunnel-vision isn't a bad thing, everybody has it, but the lesson is that anecdotes should only be given so much credence. And of course it has been mentioned that different biological states require different measures, and there will be some differences.

The grand solution is to get very specific lab tests and understand the mechanisms that produce the metabolic syndrome (better term than leptin resistance, which is one part of it), and then understand how diet and lifestyle impact on processes that produce a dysfunctional body. That is pretty hard for most people to do, and most people just want to get results and go about their lives.

The softer solution is to be patient and strive for health first. When people ask the question "what is going to get me as skinny as possible as quickly as possible?" they are doing themselves a huge disservice. It was likely years and years of junk food and chronic stress or whatever it was, that got you into this whole thing in the first place, what makes you think that you are going to drop 100 pounds by the end of the year with X Diet or Y Diet and everything is going to be peachy? The better strategy is to study nutrition and holistic health with an open mind, make at least an effort to understand some of the nuts and bolts of how everything works, and start working towards as healthy a diet and lifestyle as you can reasonably manage. Approach it from the "I want to live forever" stance, not the "gimme results" stance and the underlying problems of the metabolic syndrome will start to resolve them. Get passionate about health and knowledge about how to produce it and become what Byron Richards calls a Health Asset Manager. You manage your own health and you take complete responsibility for it. Robb Wolf doesn't take responsibility, your doctor doesn't take responsibility - they help and offer guidance, but this is about the person living inside the skin of the body with the metabolic syndrome taking charge for it and being the arbiter of what is ultimately healthy. Deferring to a particular diet book is oftentimes helpful for some, but an understanding of all of the things one can do to improve health is the ticket. Most health authors and originators of diets, even most people on health forums are dogmatic monomanics with emotions tied to everything they believe. That's not to be condescending since I do it too, although try not to. I'm not targeting paleohacks or anyone in particular, it is just the fact of the matter, that pretty much everyone I have ever read anything about nutrition from is not telling the whole story and are biased in favor of certain beliefs that make them happy.

Health first is the best ticket. What are the benefits of healing your gut? What heals the gut? How does this mechanism work? Glutamine makes the junctions in the gut tight by increasing zonulin. What's zonulin? Il-6 damages the gut, what's Il-6 and how do I reduce it in the body? You don't have to be a biologist, just listen to those who are and get a general idea of what they are saying and what the evidence is for what they are saying.

Coming back to evidence, there are a lot of unsubstantiated beliefs throughout the whole natural health movement, more concentrated in some places than others coughveganscough and it isn't helping things. Luckily there are plenty of bloggers and authors working on this so it is attainable to everyone. Join the movement. Not the "Mark Sisson's Primal Diet Is The Best Of The Best And Solves Everything" movement, but the one where people come together to discuss the evidence for what is healthy and how we might use it to our advantage. The diet mentality kills opportunism. There is so much supplement hate and nobody things they should have them, but scientists have been able to isolate powerful nutrients like curcumin to high potencies that have a profound effect on metabolic health. And yet people hate supplements. People around here hate fiber but good quality fiber has been shown time and time again to improve metabolic health and help people lose weight. High doses of it like 30g a day.

Gary Taubes wrote in his book Good Calories Bad Calories that it isn't unreasonable to assume that the same things that cause cancer and heart disease also tend to cause obesity. It really is all one metabolic syndrome and what people die of is oftentimes a coin toss. There is much better information available on the prevention of diseases than on using pure diet to impact things like hunger, the propensity towards higher and more potent but unsatisfying food reward, and decreased energy and vitality, but the causes are generally all the same.

The soft soft solution is just to eat unprocessed food, do the basics like getting enough nutrients, don't do anything to mess things up like exercise like mad on a 0 carb diet so cortisol skyrockets, avoid toxic things, and get active and fit with a good attitude and overall lifestyle and be patient. Oh I've been on the paleo diet 2 months and I have only lost 2 pounds and I'm doing everything right. Well sometimes it takes a long time for everything to get to where it needs to be. If people are so impatient they should try to be satiated and active on a lower caloric intake and although I don't think that itself is a great long-term strategy, the very act of losing some weight can mitigate the metabolic syndrome and be a springboard for the rest of it to start working. How long does it take to resolve dysbiosis, cells packed with omega-6, crapped out liver, nutrient-deficiency, leaky gut, etc. The answer is certainly not a few months.

Last point is to be a skeptic and learn to love skepticism. We can't ever really know if anything we believe is true. We have good reason to suspect many things are true but we might be delusional or be seeing with tunnel-vision or a blind-fold on. And it is really hard to tell with so many factors going into metabolic health what is really working if something is indeed working. So this all means that we need to be constantly questioning everything and revising our positions with new evidence. Always learning, and always working towards a better way of doing things.

In short, dietary advice needs to be evidence-based. Pure knowledge gets things done and Skinny Dude X needs to supply some good evidence for assertions and Not So Skinny Dude Y needs to demand it.

91d422b073139d35e0856967ba1c21d6

(1054)

on August 05, 2011
at 05:11 PM

Is 0 zerb 0 carb? Or is there a new term I haven't yet learned? Great answer, the best here in my view.

Medium avatar

(3029)

on August 05, 2011
at 05:22 AM

"strive for health first" Right on!

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on August 05, 2011
at 05:31 PM

yeah, suppose I'll edit that.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on October 01, 2011
at 03:14 PM

Because glucose is a semi-essential nutrient, there is such thing as a glucose insufficiency http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?cat=105 zero carb diets can be dangerous, whereas 50-100g carb diets do not suffer from the same failings, and so I see zero carb diets as needlessly extreme.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on October 01, 2011
at 07:06 AM

Why is 0 carb mad?

5
Fe29f6658ce67c1ecc4a22e960be7498

(2997)

on August 04, 2011
at 11:49 PM

Pale-O-Girl, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the leptin thing, and currently I use a rather simplistic 'story' to explain it to myself: One aspect (mentioned above) is that it's resistance to leptin that really causes problems: the body's fat generates a small amount of leptin - and the more fat cells the more leptin overall. Various metabolism receptors get a bigger leptin signal and go "ok, time to lose weight!", a smaller amount of leptin and it's "ok, time to gain weight!". But over time those receptors become resistant, which means they need more leptin to generate the same level of feedback, and the body becomes 'set' to a new, higher weight.

This may be a significant issue with obesity - but maybe not so much with "only a few pounds" to lose. One can say that since it's a signal problem in the obese that it's smaller - but still the same signal issue - in the non-obese. But probably for someone like you, I'd imagine that other processes have a bigger impact and the leptin thing is still in the background.

I've heard other versions - and I'm kind of hallucinating this explanation so usual grain of salt: That it's the kind of fatty acids you carry in your fat cells. In particular if you've consumed a ton of polyunsaturated fatty acids in your life (some in grains, and also vegetable oils, trans fats would be here too - and excessive consumption of fish oil). And, just like they go rancid in the fridge they can go rancid in your warmer body (depriving cells of oxygen in the process btw), and causing inflammation.

Now, say you try to lose weight - fasting, or paleo or Weight Watchers or whatever. Fatty acids along with a large portion of the polyunsaturated fatty acids are dumped into your blood stream. They have this wonderful ability of attaching to cell walls blocking glucose uptake into those cells. So now your cells aren't efficiently using the glucose available to them.

This is related to insulin resistance then - insulin is telling the cells to suck up glucose, and the cells are blocked from doing so by the unsaturated fatty acids circulating in your blood, so more insulin is released to compensate, and more glucose is stored as fat - and so on.

The end result is very much like the leptin explanation: your stored fat is now 'telling' your body - via polyunsaturated fatty acid caused insulin resistance - to store glucose in adipose. And cause a little inflammation while at it.

The way out of this cycle is rather 'Paleo': more saturated fat. Over time all your fat will eventually circulate in your blood stream as fatty acids (I heard something like a four-year half life). If you're eating mostly saturated fats, then as the unsaturated fats are finally removed your cells can better process glucose - you have more energy, store less in adipose and so lose fat. But it'd take time.

I dropped about 30 pounds pretty well over a few months. Then my weight loss stalled (not my only goal but it's a nice marker) and didn't start dropping again until I removed more sources for the polyunsaturateds (I stopped flax, and fish oils, and veggies fried in canola, among other things) and upped saturated fats - and now it's dropping again (5 lbs so far) but more slowly. I can't say that's THE explanation since other things have changed too, but it feels reasonable.

Phew! I hope this stream-of-consciousness writing makes sense! Feel free to contact me (on my profile) if you'd like more details/clarification.

3
1568416ef28477d1fa29046218d83ddd

(6235)

on August 01, 2011
at 06:23 PM

Personally I am not convinced that Leptin is that important. I would note that the trials involving supplementing it seem to have failed.

I do think that there is a wide range of needs, but that those overlap and are not as simple as fit/fat male/female.

Breaking it in to dualities seems reasonable, but I feel like we would loose a lot of range because these things seem more analogue than binary to me.

Also I would point out that not everyone who is "fat" on this site actually has losing weight as a goal, it isn't really one for me.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:48 PM

@pale-o-girl - yeah, i don't really think it's a great shorthand.

1568416ef28477d1fa29046218d83ddd

(6235)

on August 01, 2011
at 07:20 PM

I think diet is important, but I don't think that leptin is the "one hormone" anymore than insulin or TSH or any of the rest of the metabolic cascade. We always want to make things easy and mechanical, but I think biology is more complex than that. I don't think we can't know, but I think acting like we DO know is a mistake.

91d422b073139d35e0856967ba1c21d6

(1054)

on August 01, 2011
at 07:36 PM

I think I'm using "leptin" as shorthand for a few different things referenced in these discussions -- insulin resistance, metabolic derangement, "syndrome X," etc. I was hoping "leptin" could be an umbrella for all of that but maybe not . . . .

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on August 01, 2011
at 07:12 PM

the fact that studies supplementing leptin did not work to occur obesity didn't work didn't make leptin any less important. what it did was show that the problem was on the receptor side of the equation instead of the amount of the hormone. the studies found most obese people had high serum leptin levels- as they should- but there was faulty signaling at the receptor level. i don't think all the mechanisms have been figured out as far as why(gylcation and oxidation are known to be two factors) but it seems that a paleo diet seems to fix whatever the problems are after a period of time.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 01, 2011
at 09:55 PM

I've been trying to get my head wrapped around this whole leptin thing too, and it if I'm understanding what I'm reading properly, and that material is painting a factual picture, it does appear that insulin resistance is somehow tied to leptin resistance, so I don't have any problem with the idea of discussing them together.

C471216c9fb4fcf886b7ac84a4046b49

(1371)

on August 05, 2011
at 01:06 AM

i dont agree leptin should be as pressed as it is either, all it serves is a signal of body fat. if its high, like in fat people, diet and lose weight. if it is low, refeed and occassionally eat more. its like body temp, it only serves as a signal of the temp of your body

2
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 01, 2011
at 10:59 PM

the more i read about leptin, ghrelin, adiponectin, prolactin... or good old insulin, for that matter - - - - - the more it is obvious for me that it's NOT just a piece of 'rocket science' (something surely difficult to comprehend and study, but, nonetheless, inherently coherent, 'universal' and verifiable) - - - - - but more like a scholastic metaphysics of physiology where there are as many 'right' answers as 'scientists' - - - - - and, if, as it is apparent, there is no meaningful agreement (due to, perhaps, lack of data/empirical research) among professionals what's left to amateurs is 10% of prudent curiosity towards current state of knowledge and 90% of n=1 experimentation

all this talk about what causes metabolic derangement or what can cure it looks a lot like various theories of diseases from old antiquity through middle ages until the 'discovery' of bacteria and viruses in the modern age: people were arguing about humors, demons, miasmas - sounds quite amusing and funny, but completely nonsensical from the vantage point of modern knowledge - - - - - i guess, time will come, and people would, probably, laugh at current ideas about leptin or whatever...

0
22424c9eef944ade83d4e4ffda907056

(1402)

on August 01, 2011
at 10:22 PM

More of a statement than a question, in effect. I love it though.

Really unavoidable though, for several reasons. Here's how it works. We get this idea in our head like maybe cutting out sugar is the secret to weight loss. We cut out sugar and lose weight. Then someone asks why they can't lose any weight and they mention what they're eating, which includes fruit. Well obviously the reason they are not losing weight is because they are still eating sugar! Obviously this isn't what always happens, but for you to feel compelled to respond to a question, you probably have a little background and unless you are consciously acknowledging the fact that there's not necessarily one way to fix a problem when two different people have the same problem, you may be giving advice that worked for you and won't for the other person. Not a big deal and generally helpful regardless, but that is what your statement is talking about.

There's also the issue that I run into in that I'm not skinny but fitness is important to me. So my answers aren't going to just be for those trying to lose weight or those interested in fitness/nutrition. I suppose the difference is approaching things from a trying to lose or trying to gain aspect.

0
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on August 01, 2011
at 05:55 PM

I agree...one question at a time! Good questions and all, just too much for one post.

91d422b073139d35e0856967ba1c21d6

(1054)

on August 01, 2011
at 06:15 PM

Thanks for the feedback, I've edited now, hope these three go together.

91d422b073139d35e0856967ba1c21d6

(1054)

on August 01, 2011
at 06:15 PM

Thanks very much for the feedback! Hopefully these three go together.

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