Leptin & Weight loss

Leptin & Weight loss

Author: Kimberly Orbons, Naturopath, Adelaide 27th May 2016


“Leptin is the satiety hormone made by adipose cells that helps to regulate our stores and energy balance by inhibiting hunger. In obesity, a decreased sensitivity to leptin occurs, resulting in an inability to detect satiety despite high energy stores.”


Hypothyroidism is usually associated with changes in body weight and energy expenditure.  A recent study looked at the relationship between obesity, thyroid function, and autoimmunity and the study discussed how there is a relationship between obesity and thyroid autoimmunity, with the hormone leptin playing a key role in linking these conditions.  The study discussed how “leptin resistance may mitigate leptin deficiency and enhance autoimmunity in obese subjects, and the development of resistance to the weight-lowering effects of leptin might be initiated by activation of inflammatory signaling”.


So what does this mean?  Essentially what this is saying is that the inflammatory component of the autoimmune response might lead to leptin resistance, thus causing obesity.  However, obesity itself can potentially lead to thyroid autoimmunity.  With someone who already has an autoimmune thyroid condition such as Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the goal is to suppress the autoimmune response, and addressing the inflammatory component is a big factor in this.  By addressing the inflammatory component, this not only can help to suppress the autoimmune response, but in turn can help to correct leptin resistance, thus making it easier to lose weight. Ever wondered why so many Naturopaths recommend Turmeric for thyroid patients? It is a strong antioxidant, support liver function and helps in the regulation of nodular growths such as thyroid nodules, but it also “down regulates the inflammatory cytokines, resistin and leptin”. 


We love this graph from INTECH- Science, Technology and Medicine open access publisher. SOURCE





Ever heard of ghrelin?? It’s a very fast function hormone that initiates eating/appetite.  More and more research is ongoing into the roles of both leptin and ghrelin as obesity numbers rise. In overweight patients, leptin levels should be increased, whereas the ghrelin levels should be decreased. Testing of your leptin levels is highly recommend for all thyroid patients, but especially those with autoimmunity, inflammation or weight gain.



When someone has healthy levels of leptin and the receptors are functioning properly, this results in a regulated appetite.  On the other hand, if someone has a leptin deficiency, this will lead to a voracious appetite.  For example, when someone eats a very low calorie diet, the body will increase the secretion of leptin in order to increase their appetite so that they will eat more.
For more information about digestion and belly bloating, read here.

But high leptin can be a very bad thing, and does not automatically indicate sudden healthy weight even if it’s high and you are not leptin-resistant. A lack of appetite that results in skipping meals, low calories and under eating (may be due to other thyroid related digestive disturbances mind you ) will suppress thyroid metabolism and metabolic speed/calorie burning. Herbal medicines such as Coleus liquid extracts plays one of many essential therapeutic roles in the regulation for appetite, lowering excessively high leptin/correcting leptin resistance which is commonly observed in Hypothyroid patients.


But weight gain is by far not the only Hypothyroid symptom to worry about, in both Autoimmune and non autoimmune cases. Muscular function and joint health, energy and blood sugar levels are negatively affected when our thyroid hormones are imbalanced. Regulation of this inflammation process above may not only relieve symptoms but aid in hormones regulation.

Leptin may be able to promote Th1 cell differentiation and cytokine production, which means that separately to aiding in calorie burning it directly communicates with our immune systems cell. In 2003 the Loyola University Medical Center cited “a complex interaction among insulin, leptin, and ghrelin” and their exploration indicated that leptin did indeed influence ghrelin and both weight. The combination of reduced inflammation and weight loss is a key point for those with joint health, as their cartilage damage is far greater when carrying around more kilo’s. Suspect you have Fibromyalgia? Read about it here.


“It controls the energy storage, lipoprotein metabolism, acute phase reactants, sex hormones and glucocorticoid metabolism, and immune function.”

(Laboratory of Experimental Rheumatology and Neuroendocrino-Immunology, Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine I, University Hospital, 93042 Regensburg, Germany. peter.haerle@klinik.uni-regensburg.de)


In summary, leptin is a hormone that is secreted by the fat cells of the body, and helps to regulate the person’s appetite and energy storage.  As a result, leptin plays an important role in maintaining weight, but also is important when it comes to fertility and immunity.  With regards to thyroid health, leptin resistance might actually increase the risk of developing an autoimmune thyroid condition in people who are obese.  For those who already have an autoimmune thyroid condition, the goal should be to address the inflammatory process, which will help to suppress the autoimmune component of the condition.





kim_new_imgKimberly Orbons 

Adv Dip Naturopathy, Adv Dip Western Herbal Medicine

Head Naturopath Kimberly Orbons is passionate about encouraging and empowering each person to facilitate their own good health with Nutrition, Herbal Medicine and preventative lifestyle management. Using a combination of diagnostics and symptomatology to identify the different metabolic processes contributing to disease allows her to treat the root or cause of poor health, providing relief of symptoms and long term recovery. Kimberly believes it is extremely important to build a personalized healing plan, taking all the complexities of a patient’s health and illness into consideration. Her consults have a strong focus on client care and treating each patient as an individual, and may therefore co-ordinate with other medical treatments. The goal is to establish each patient’s ability to live in the best possible state of health, naturally.




References and Recommended reading:

GRAPH: Obesity and Weight Loss: The Influence of Thyroid Hormone on Adipokines Renata de Azevedo Melo Luvizotto1, Sandro José Conde1, Miriane de Oliveira1, Maria Teresa De Sibio1, Keize Nagamati Jr1 and Célia Regina Nogueira1[1] Department of Internal Medicine, Botucatu School of Medicine, University of São Paulo State, Botucatu, SP,, Brazil http://www.intechopen.com/books/thyroid-hormone/obesity-and-weight-loss-the-influence-of-thyroid-hormone-on-adipokines

Nutrition. 2014 Jun;30(6):702-5. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2013.11.025. Epub 2014 Jan 29. Beverage from Coleus aromaticus reduces leptin levels and improves appetite rating in human volunteers. Wadikar DD1, Premavalli KS2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24800669
J Immunol. 2005 Mar 15;174(6):3137-42. Leptin in immunology. Matarese G1, Moschos S, Mantzoros CS.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15749839


Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2013 Sep;68(3):213-21. doi: 10.1007/s11130-013-0361-1. A review on botanical species and chemical compounds with appetite suppressing properties for body weight control. Astell KJ1, Mathai ML, Su XQ. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23666454

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Jun;1069:454-62. Leptin is a link between adipose tissue and inflammation. Härle P1, Straub RH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16855173

Thyroid. 2013 Jun;23(6):646-53. doi: 10.1089/thy.2011.0499. Epub 2013 Apr 4. The interconnections between obesity, thyroid function, and autoimmunity: the multifold role of leptin. Duntas LH1, Biondi B http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22934923


Obes Rev. 2007 Jan;8(1):21-34. The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review.

Klok MD1, Jakobsdottir S, Drent ML. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17212793
Nutr Rev. 2003 Nov;61(11):391-3. A critical interaction: leptin and ghrelin. Williams J1, Mobarhan S. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14677575
Eur J Nutr. 2011 Apr;50(3):151-61. doi: 10.1007/s00394-011-0188-1. Epub 2011 Mar 27. New mechanisms and the anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in obesity and obesity-related metabolic diseases. Shehzad A1, Ha T, Subhan F, Lee YS. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21442412