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“Why am I always hungry?” Is that a question you often ask yourself, even after meals? Feeling hungry after eating could be due to leptin resistance. Leptin, a hormone produced by body fat, controls whether or not you feel full after eating.
Someone with normal leptin function will not feel hunger after eating until it’s time for the next meal. This is because the body secretes leptin when you’ve had enough to eat and tells your brain you’re full. (See also Leptin Foods: The Answer to ‘Why Am I Always Hungry?’)
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Why Am I Always Hungry? The Effect of Leptin Resistance
Because adipose (fat) cells secrete leptin, you would think that a person who is overweight would have plenty of leptin and hence never feel hungry. Unfortunately, this is not true. Excess fat tissue in the body creates excess leptin and leads to leptin resistance, which causes feelings of hunger, even if a person has already had enough to eat.
In other words, there is too much leptin circulating in the bloodstream, which overwhelms the body’s cells. In order to protect themselves, the cells shut down their receptors for leptin, thus causing leptin resistance. With no leptin getting into cells, the brain never receives the message it is full, and a person is prone to overeating.
In addition to increasing appetite, leptin serves a double whammy by promoting more fat storage. It’s a vicious roller-coaster that makes successful weight loss very difficult!
Leptin is also important for fertility, libido, and puberty, making proper diet and leptin sensitivity important for developing children. In fact, leptin resistance could explain why obese girls are 80 percent more likely to start puberty earlier than normal.
Overeating Caused by High Triglycerides
Leptin resistance isn’t the only battle in the fight against overeating. High triglycerides have been shown to block leptin’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (a thin lining that protects the brain) to deliver its satiety signal to the brain.
Diet Can Reverse Feelings of Hunger
Have you asked yourself, “Why am I always hungry?” The first step you can take to normalize your leptin levels is to change your diet.
BACK TO BASICS
Don’t miss our blog “What Is ‘Nutrition?’” Written by Dawn Bialy, executive editor of Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Health Advisor, the post takes you back to the basics of nutrition.
Overeating and eating too many sweets and starchy foods can lead to leptin resistance, high triglycerides, and hence the feelings of hunger and intense food cravings. Therefore, the key to unwinding leptin resistance is to adopt a leptin-sensitivity diet that can also help you shed unwanted pounds.
What Is a Leptin-Sensitivity Diet?
If you want to overcome leptin resistance, consider these leptin-lowering facts:
- Ditch the sweets and sodas. Sugar and corn syrup has been shown to directly make the brain resistant to leptin. Sweets also raise triglycerides so leptin can’t reach the brain.
- Eat a lower-carb diet. Starchy foods (pasta, rice, breads, potatoes, corn, pastries, etc.) spike blood sugar and insulin levels. This in turn increases leptin.
- Consume healthy fats such as coconut oil, butter, ghee, uncooked olive oil, avocado, salmon, etc. Adequate, healthy fats turn on leptin’s satiety switch.
- Consider taking a fish or krill oil supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids modulate leptin.
Remember that overeating causes leptin resistance, which can make you constantly hungry. Cutting sodas, sweets, high-carb and processed foods, in addition to adding healthy fats will help curb these cravings. Also, don’t forget to exercise regularly. Exercise, particularly strength training and interval training, helps lower leptin.
MOST FILLING FOODS
Feeling hungry more often than you’d like makes it difficult to maintain a consistent (and healthy) weight. Top tip from the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP): Make sure your diet includes healthy foods that fill you up.
“The kinds and amounts of food people eat affect their ability to maintain weight,” according to an ODPHP release. “High-fat foods contain more calories per serving than other foods and may increase the likelihood of weight gain. However, even when people eat less high-fat food, they still can gain weight from eating too much of foods high in starch, sugars, or protein.
“Eat a variety of foods, emphasizing fruits and vegetables,” the release continues. “These foods are filling, but lower in calories than foods rich in fats or oils.”
SOURCES & RESOURCES
For more on healthy eating, see these University Health News posts:
 Childhood obesity brings early puberty for girls. By Phil McKenna. New Scientist. March 5, 2007.
 Triglycerides induce leptin resistance at the blood-brain barrier. Diabetes. 2004 May;53(5):1253-60.
 Mastering Leptin: Your Guide to Permanent Weight Loss and Optimum Health. Richard and Mary Guignon Richards. Wellness Resources, May 2009.
Originally published in 2012, this post is regularly updated.