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Leptin Resistance: An Endocrinological Assessment of Weight Gain and Obesity by Holtorf Medical Group

People who are significantly overweight may have more than diet and exercise to contend with. Studies have found that overweight individuals may also be faced with metabolic and endocrinological dysfunction.

America has a weight problem. Nearly two-thirds of our nation is obese or significantly overweight. Unfortunately, there is more to it than diet and exercise and more often than not, individuals in this category struggle to lose weight. Why? The reason being, that endocrinological and metabolic dysfunction may play a significant role in an individual’s ability to lose weight.


Leptin (from the Greek “thin”) is a hormone produced by the body to inhibit hunger. It is referred to as the “satiety hormone.” Leptin and ghrelin, (the hunger hormone) work in harmony to regulate appetite and achieve balanced energy. Studies on overweight individuals have demonstrated varying degrees of leptin resistance or a signaling dysfunction. Essentially leptin is secreted by our fat cells and its levels increase with the accumulation of fat. Leptin then sends a signal back to the hypothalamus, which is our hormone control center, that their fat (energy) is stored and can be used as fuel. In overweight persons leptin is unable to produce the normal effects of weight loss because of resistance, resulting in lower levels of leptin causing the hypothalamus to think that the fat storages are empty and need to be filled.

The metabolic effects of leptin resistance can throw off the entire hormonal balance resulting in diminished TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), and increase in appetite, increase in insulin resistance, an inhibition to break fat down, and slowing down of the metabolic rate that inhibits weight loss and promotes weight gain. Once this has all been put into play individuals are now also faced with a thyroid deficiency.

Individuals who are overweight and unable to lose weight by eating a healthy diet may be experiencing a weight problem that is more complicated than originally thought. It is recommended that they obtain a metabolic panel, which measures leptin levels (levels higher than 10 are indicative of leptin resistance) and thyroid tissue levels.

Leptin resistance coupled with thyroid dysfunction can be treated together with medication. Combining these with a healthy lifestyle can result in significant and sustained weight loss and an end to a lifetime of struggle.

3 Replies

Hi Mel,

This is a really interesting article, many thanks for sharing it. I really wish I'd never been overweight in the first place, as I am sure it impacted substantially on my ability to lose the weight afterwards, and I know I ended up yo-yo-ing with my weight in my 30's, which wouldn't have been good either. But I am glad that I've finally managed to maintain a healthy BMI for the past 4 years now, and I'm really hoping if I can continue to do that, that maybe my metabolism will be better, and any previous imbalances will be restored after a certain time, and I'm interested in studies that look at the life-span of fat cells etc.

I don't think I'm expressing myself particularly well here, but I do find these articles really interesting, in terms of hormone imbalances etc.

Zest :-)

1 like

Hi Zest,

It's good that you've found what works for you!

Our hormone health is so important, & not considered enough with regards to what we need to keep a healthy body balance, & not just with regard to weight. It's all more complex than just calorie counting. Adequate sleep positively affects our leptin production, & inadequate sleep makes us produce more ghrelin which makes us hungry & go into storage mode as a response to stress. Inadequate nutrition both in terms of calories & nutrient intake can also have the effect of making our bodies store fat rather than utilise it as energy. It's interesting too, that fat cells have a "memory" making it harder for some people to loose weight.

What I notice most with obese friends & family is their disregard for accepting unhealthy foods as acceptable & being fine to eat as long as the calories are within a specific limit. They also continue to fall for the low fat/sweetener/processed foods hype as a route to weight loss which never happens or they rebound after initial weight loss. I'm far from thin, but eat as much as I want & rarely feel hunger. :)

Mel x

1 like

Very good information, thanks for posting BadHare.