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Your weight is largely controlled by hormones.

Research shows that hormones influence your appetite and how much fat you store (1, 2, 3).

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Here are nine ways to “fix” the hormones that control your weight.

1. Insulin

Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells of your pancreas.

It’s secreted in small amounts throughout the day and in larger amounts after meals.

Insulin allows your cells to take in blood sugar for energy or storage, depending on what is needed at the time.

Insulin is also the main fat storage hormone in the body. It tells fat cells to store fat and prevents stored fat from being broken down.

When cells are insulin resistant (very common), both blood sugar and insulin levels go up significantly.

Chronically elevated insulin levels (termed hyperinsulinemia) can lead to many health problems, including obesity and metabolic syndrome (4, 5, 6).

Overeating—especially sugar, refined carbohydrates and fast food—drives insulin resistance and increases insulin levels (7, 8, 9).

Here are some tips to normalize insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity:

  • Avoid or minimize sugar: High amounts of fructose and sucrose promote insulin resistance and raise insulin levels (10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15).
  • Fill up on protein: Protein actually raises insulin in the short-term. However, it should lead to long-term reductions in insulin resistance by helping you lose belly fat (20, 21).
  • Include plenty of healthy fats: Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish can help lower fasting insulin levels (22).
  • Exercise regularly: Overweight women who walked briskly or jogged had an improvement in insulin sensitivity after 14 weeks in one study (23, 24, 25).
  • Drink green tea: Green tea may lower blood sugar and insulin levels (29, 30).

Bottom Line: Insulin is the main fat storage hormone in the body. Reducing sugar intake, cutting carbs and exercise are the best ways to lower insulin levels.

2. Leptin

Leptin is produced by your fat cells.

It’s considered a “satiety hormone” that reduces appetite and makes you feel full.

As a signaling hormone, its role is to communicate with the hypothalamus, the portion of your brain that regulates appetite and food intake.

Leptin tells the brain that there’s enough fat in storage and no more is needed, which helps prevent overeating.

People who are overweight or obese usually have very high levels of leptin in their blood. In fact, one study found that leptin levels in obese people were four times higher than in people of normal weight (31).

If leptin reduces appetite, then obese people with high levels of leptin should start eating less and lose weight.

Unfortunately, in obesity the leptin system doesn’t work as it should. This is referred to as leptin resistance.

When leptin signaling is impaired, the message to stop eating doesn’t get through to the brain, so it doesn’t realize you have enough energy stored (32, 33).

In essence, your brain thinks it is starving, so you’re driven to eat.

Leptin levels are also reduced when you lose weight, which is one of the main reasons it is so hard to maintain weight loss in the long-term. The brain thinks you are starving and pushes you to eat more (34, 35, 36).

Two potential causes of leptin resistance are chronically elevated insulin levels and inflammation in the hypothalamus (5, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41).

Here are a few suggestions for improving leptin sensitivity:

  • Exercise regularly: Moderate activity can improve leptin sensitivity (43, 44, 45).
  • Get enough sleep: Studies have shown that insufficient sleep leads to a drop in leptin levels and increased appetite (46, 47).
  • Supplements: In one study, women on a weight-loss diet who took alpha-lipoic acid and fish oil lost more weight and had a smaller decrease in leptin than those in a control group (48).

Bottom Line: People with obesity tend to be resistant to the effects of leptin. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods, exercising and getting enough sleep may improve leptin sensitivity.

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