Leptin and Obesity: Key Things to Know about Leptin Resistance

Leptin and Obesity: Key Things to Know about Leptin Resistance

Many think losing weight is as easy as eating less and exercising more. But in reality, it's not that simple. Many factors can affect how our body weight changes; some are beyond our control. One example is the hormones fat cells produce, called adipokines. These hormones can influence our appetite. Leptin is one of these hormones, and we'll discuss how it relates to obesity.

What is Leptin, and Why is it Important?

Leptin is a hormone made by our fat cells; its job is to tell our brain that we're full. The amount of leptin produced depends on how much fat our body has. When we have more fat, we make more leptin; when we have less fat, we make less leptin. Typically, when there's more leptin (meaning more fat), our brain gets the message that we're full, so we eat less and eventually lose weight. But when we lose weight and have less fat, our leptin levels go down. This means our brain doesn't get the signal for fullness, and we start feeling hungry more often. As a result, we end up eating more and gaining weight again. When we lose weight, our body wants us to eat more. This is a helpful adaptation that helped our ancestors survive when food was scarce, but it also explains why it's common to regain weight after losing it.

Leptin Resistance and Obesity

When scientists first found the leptin hormone, they believed it could be a significant breakthrough in treating obesity. They thought people who couldn't lose weight were not making enough leptin. But it turns out that for most people with obesity, that's not the main issue. While there are rare genetic conditions where insufficient leptin is produced, leading to severe obesity, it's not the common cause. Interestingly, researchers have discovered that people with obesity can have high levels of leptin, but it doesn't have the usual effect of reducing appetite and causing weight loss.


Now, let's talk about why leptin levels are high in obesity. Remember, our body produces leptin when there's more body fat. But despite having high levels of leptin, why do people still struggle with obesity? The answer lies in something called leptin resistance. This means that even though the body makes enough leptin, the brain no longer responds to its signals. It's like the brain becomes resistant or unresponsive to leptin. In the case of obesity, when there's leptin resistance despite having excess body fat and high leptin levels, we feel starving, which leads to eating more and gaining more weight.


Another exciting thing about leptin is that it affects the pleasure or "feel good" sensations from food. In leptin resistance, our brain keeps getting stimulated by food, contributing to weight gain. It's important to know that leptin doesn't just control our appetite. It also influences how our body uses energy, processes glucose and cholesterol, affects insulin resistance and determines where it stores fat. All of these factors play a role in weight balance.

How Can You Tell If You Have Leptin Resistance?

If you have a lot of extra weight and find it difficult to lose weight despite feeling hungry, you might have leptin resistance. However, testing for leptin resistance is usually done in research studies and not in regular healthcare settings. The main focus should be on treating obesity itself when it comes to addressing leptin resistance.

Evidence-Based Treatment of Obesity

Lifestyle Changes

Research has shown three essential things to focus on when losing weight: nutrition, physical activity, and mindset. For successful weight loss, it's essential to reduce the number of calories we consume in a way that we can sustain over time. Increasing physical activity and following a low-calorie diet are crucial for losing weight and keeping it off long-term. Adjusting our environment and mindset to support healthy habits is also essential. We understand that each person faces unique challenges regarding weight loss. We work with you to create a personalised plan that considers these lifestyle factors and helps you achieve your weight loss goals.


Some people find it difficult to lose or keep off their lost weight by focusing on nutrition and physical activity. In such cases, weight loss medications may be an option. There are several medications approved by for weight loss. These include Wegovy, and Saxenda. A doctor can prescribe these medications to help individuals lose weight.

How do these medications work?

These medications have different mechanisms of action, but their ultimate goal is to reduce appetite and cravings, leading to a decrease in calorie intake. However, orlistat works differently compared to the others. It blocks the absorption of fat from meals, preventing the body from processing the calories from the fat consumed.

How much weight can I expect to lose with these medications? 

When people take weight loss medications, a reduced-calorie diet, and increased physical activity, they lose around 5-10% of their body weight on average. However, there is one medication called Wegovy that stands out. Studies showed an average weight loss of approximately 15% of body weight after one year for those taking the highest dose (2.4 mg) in combination with diet and exercise.

Am I a candidate for weight loss medication?

Suppose adults have found it challenging to lose weight or maintain weight loss through lifestyle changes alone (such as following a low-calorie diet and increasing physical activity). In that case, they may consider weight loss medications. However, certain criteria must be met based on their body mass index (BMI):


  • BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher

  • BMI of 27 kg/m2 or higher, along with a weight-related medical condition like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, etc.


It's important to note that there are specific reasons why weight loss medications may not be suitable for everyone, depending on their medical history. It is crucial to discuss with your doctor to determine the best course of action.

Let Weight Loss Coach Help You Reach Your Weight Loss Goals

Losing weight can be difficult due to various reasons, but Weight Loss Coach is available to assist. At Weight Loss Coach, you'll be matched with a medical doctor who specialises in Obesity Medicine and a Registered Dietitian who has expertise in weight management. They create a personalised weight loss plan that fits your needs. They focus on nutrition, physical activity, and mindset adjustments to support your success. They also prescribe weight loss medications as part of your plan if suitable.


Write a Comment