In episode 110 of his video series, Dr. Larson discusses:

Today we have new scientific evidence that hormones are extremely important for appetite and hunger, and they have a great influence on obesity and being overweight. Being overweight, or obese, leads to things like heart disease and a whole cascade of other negative health consequences. Hormones are what drives our bodies and also what signals the brain whether we are hungry or full.

And they are the centerpiece to being overweight and obesity. So if we understand what makes us over-fat, then we should be able to find strategies to make us burn fat. Hormones are the gatekeepers to hunger and weight. We have talked multiple times, in past episodes, about insulin and cortisol and how they affect fat burning. When insulin levels are elevated, the fat burning hormones don’t work.

Therefore, insulin is at the centerpiece of what we call “fuel partitioning” or whether we are in a fat burning mode, or a fat storage mode. Insulin is a major, if not THE major, player in the whole physiological process. And also we know that cortisol has a lot to do with weight too. High levels or chronic release of cortisol, can increase visceral adipose fat. And medications that mimic cortisol, like prednisone, can lead to obesity and metabolic issues. Leptin is also a hormone that is critical for weight and appetite. It is produced by our fat cells and supposed to signal the brain when we are full.

A study released yesterday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), by researchers at Yale and Harvard, found that leptin has a considerable influence on our hunger and feelings of appetite or appetite suppression. But what they also found, which we didn’t know, is that there is an intermediary step to the process. When leptin levels drop down, then it has a direct signal on the brain to trigger hunger. So, low leptin levels lead to hunger and an increase in appetite.


If you take it one step further, a condition called leptin resistance is similar to insulin resistance and it can have a very similar effect on weight. Leptin resistance is a condition where receptors in the brain won’t accept it. So even if there is a sufficient supply, the brain reads it as low levels. The current study looked at leptin levels, and although we once thought that they had a direct effect on the brain, what researchers found is that there is an intermediary hormone response. As levels of leptin drop, it signals something called the HPA axis.



The HPA axis stimulates the brain to produce cortisol, which increases the hunger signal in the brain. So, the HPA axis provides backdoor access to the entire process. Therefore, we now know that if we want to get control of weight, we have to be able to control hormone levels and hormone balance. It isn’t simply a matter of eating less and exercising more, because that doesn’t do anything to target the hormones that are responsible for satiation and hunger.

People can only white knuckle it and cut calories for so long if there is an imbalance of hormones in the body. So we have to address balancing hormones to gain control over weight.

This recent study showcases how leptin directly influences the brain via the HPA axis, and how it affects the signal of hunger in the brain. Since hormones are at the center of fat burning, we need to make sure that they are in check to initiate fuel partitioning to maintain a healthy weight and to lower your risk of chronic disease and illness. I will continue to report the latest research in the area of weight and obesity, so stay tuned…


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