Researchers have recently discovered that people with lower levels of circulating leptin have an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Leptin is a hormone produced by your fat tissue. It has a big role to play in regulating caloric intake and fat stores. As you consume calories, this powerful hormone is secreted into the circulatory system, where it makes its way up to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus contains specialized receptors that respond to leptin. Leptin’s effect is to cause feelings of fullness and to increase energy output, particularly from stored body fat.
There are a number of different things that can damage the hypothalamic leptin receptors: chronic inflammation from dietary stress; heavy metal toxicity; and environmental pollutants are just a few. Leptin receptor damage can create a condition called leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is when the hypothalamus is unable to respond to high insulin levels. This causes increased appetite and weight gain.
Along with helping to regulate weight and energy output, leptin plays an important role in the hippocampus — an area critical to the functioning of memory processes. The hormone has been shown to stimulate arterial formation and, through this increased blood supply, the hippocampus is able to function more effectively.
Researchers recently investigated the role of leptin in the functioning of the hypothalamus. They did a massive search through medical databases looking for the terms “leptin,” “brain,” “neuron,” and “glial.”
After analyzing selected clinical trials, they found that leptin has significant effects on neurogenesis (the development of nerve tissue), axon growth (nerve fibers that conducts impulses away from a nerve cell), synaptogenesis (the formation of synapses between brain cells), neuron excitability, neuro-protection and the regulation of beta-amyloid levels (a compound that accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s). They noted that all of these effects have been shown to improve cognition and mood. They concluded that leptin has extra-hypothalamic effects that may protect the brain against the development of mood and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
You can balance your leptin levels naturally by:
–Reducing your sugar and grain consumption: sugar, high fructose corn syrup and heavy doses of grains, such as wheat, oats, rice, and starchy vegetables, will increase leptin resistance.
–Building your meals around non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats, such as avocados, extra-virgin coconut and olive oils, grass-fed meat, free-range eggs, almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, and hemp, flax and chia seeds.
–Doing high-intensity exercise for short durations. This stimulates large secretions of human growth hormone, which boost fat-burning mechanisms and help to regulate leptin levels.
–Getting a good night’s sleep. Leptin levels typically rise during sleep.