By: Clifford Sonnie, M.D., M.P.H.
There is a new hormone that is slowly making its way into the newspapers and talk shows. It is not really new but its role is being slowly revealed. The problem is, as I have seen in the past, once something is even hinted at being the cause of or help for some health condition, too many people and practitioners jump prematurely onto the band wagon. So let’s talk about Leptin.
Yeah, some science. Leptin is a hormone mostly made by fat cells which tells a part of your brain that you should stop eating and tells your body how much fat to store. It also tells the liver how much sugar (glucose) it should store. In short it keeps the amount of fat, and sugar for that matter, in the body balanced. The more fat you have, the more Leptin you make. The more Leptin you have the less fat is stored and you are less hungry. As you lose fat you make less Leptin. Wait a minute. Then how do you get obese? Well people can have two problems with Leptin. It’s not this simple but either you do not make enough Leptin or the Leptin you make doesn’t work. The first case is usually genetic and accounts for a small percentage of all obese patients. The body just doesn’t make Leptin and your appetite and fat storage can go uncontrolled. The second situation is called Leptin resistance and is similar to Insulin resistance. The body makes enough of either but the body doesn’t or can’t utilize it properly. Now here is where many of us disagree. I attribute this resistance to diet and exercise. Many don’t. Some say that it is a chemical deficiency or imbalance that can be rectified with that chemical. Others, like me, say that it is a dietary and exercise deficiency and that is the cause of the Leptin (or insulin) not working properly.
I’m not going to bore you with the debate because it is ongoing and no where near all the information is out there yet. What I am saying is that with the hint of a “miracle” substance that controls appetite, there will be numerous practitioners, supplement and drug companies regaling you with their product. They will claim their product will either make your body make Leptin or will take its place because it’s “just as good”. After all, Insulin resistance is not treated with giving more insulin and neither should Leptin resistance. I hope I’m wrong and this “sales” pitch never comes to fruition, but too many are searching for the “magic” pill or the like.
I’ve said this before and will say it again. Many if not all of our medical ills can be treated and / or eliminated successfully with just a change in eating habits and exercise. As my dad always said about weight control, close the pie hole and mobilize the butt. Seems pretty easy to me. I won’t say that concept is for everyone but it is a pretty good starting place. Leptin may prove to be helpful. There may be something else out there that science may proves also can help in weight control. I’ve always been of the opinion that it took a long while for us to get our bodies and our health to where we are today. It will take just as long and will probably be more difficult for us to get back to where we want or should be.
As always check with you medical physician before starting any regimen or come see us and we can talk. Remember, the smart health care consumer is informed and aware.
Clifford Sonnie, M.D., M.P.H. is a physician at the Balance of Life Clinic