We all know that insulin resistance plays a big part in type II diabetes and obesity. You may be less aware of the role of leptin resistance.
What is leptin? Leptos in Greek means ‘thin.’ Leptin is a hormone that is released by adipose tissue (stored fat) that causes us to feel full.
Insulin and Leptin are very closely linked. When you eat, insulin is released that takes the sugar from your blood and distributes it throughout the body. Some goes to the adipose tissue, which causes the adipose tissue to produce leptin. When your leptin levels get high enough, a signal is sent to your brain that you are full so that you will stop eating. A signal is also sent to your pancreas to stop producing insulin.
If you have eaten an appropriate amount, the sugar will be brought to cells and used. But if you have eaten too much, your cells won’t need all of the sugar you have eaten, which causes insulin to stimulate the production of triglycerides to store the excess sugar as fat. The problem is that the triglycerides get in the way of leptin getting to your brain so you will continue to eat because your brain hasn’t sensed that leptin threshold so you don’t feel full. This is called leptin resistance.
If your unhealthy habits continue, insulin resistance develops as a self-protective mechanism of the cell – the cells don’t need any more sugar, they have plenty and too much sugar will kill the cell, so the cells shut their doors and stop responding to the insulin. And a cycle starts of increased insulin to deal with the excess sugar causing increasing insulin resistance, increased triglycerides because the sugar is not needed for energy by the cells causing weight gain, and increased leptin as insulin transports more sugar to the adipose tissue causing increased leptin resistance.
As the cycle continues, insulin resistance will reach the level of the liver (which will cause low blood sugar between meals and high blood sugar levels first thing in the morning) and leptin resistance will reach the level of the pancreas (meaning that not only will you not feel full, but your pancreas will also continue to produce insulin which can cause low blood sugar a couple hours after meals, which in turn causes us to eat more). These cycles can be the start of type II diabetes.
Now ask yourself a question. If you are on medication that lowers your blood sugar, where is the sugar going?
Answer: It is either being stored as fat or it is being forced into cells that have enough already, leading to the death of the cell.
Modifying your diet, increasing your activity level, and having an overall healthy lifestyle are the only true ways to stop this cycle and reverse any damage done (including type II diabetes).