Your weight and metabolism is determined by the complex interplay of your lifestyle and your genetic predisposition. In addition, chronic stress has a significant impact on the hormones that play important roles in hunger, satiety and metabolism. Scientists have long known that the hormones adiponectin, leptin and ghrelin affect hunger, cravings and weight regain after weight loss. These hormone levels are affected by body weight, loss of body fat and genetics. Some of us are genetically predisposed to make higher or lower levels of these hormones.
Adiponectin is a protein secreted by fat tissue. Adiponectin levels are lower among overweight people than those who are normal weight. Visceral fat, or belly fat, accumulation is associated with lower adiponectin levels than subcutaneous fat which is present beneath the surface of the skin. Low adiponectin levels may reflect dysfunction of fat tissue among overweight individuals. Low levels of adiponectin are associated with health risks including inflammation, lipid abnormalities, insulin resistance and increased risk of diabetes, fatty liver disease, coronary heart disease and cancer. Both acute and chronic stress can lower levels of adiponectin.Leptin is a hormone released from fat cells that sends signals to the hypothalamus in the brain. This particular hormone helps regulate and alter long-term food intake and energy expenditure, and not just from one meal to the next. The primary design of leptin is to help the body maintain its weight. Because it comes from fat cells, leptin amounts are directly connected to your amount of body fat. If your body fat increases, leptin levels will increase. If you lower your body fat, your leptin levels decrease as well. Leptin is sometimes called the satiety hormone. It helps inhibit hunger and regulate energy balance, so you do not trigger hunger responses when you do not need energy. However, when levels of the hormone fall, which happens when you lose weight, the lower levels can trigger increases in appetite and food cravings. This, in turn, can make weight loss and maintenance of the weight loss more difficult.
When your body is functioning properly, excess fat cells will produce leptin, which will trigger the hypothalamus to lower your appetite, allowing your body to dip into your fat stores for energy. Unfortunately, if you are overweight, you may have too much leptin in your blood. This can cause a lack of sensitivity to the hormone, a condition known as leptin resistance. Your body has high levels of leptin but your body no longer responds to the appropriate signaling so hunger and food craving continue even after you have eaten enough. Chronic stress and eating too frequently throughout the day can also lead to leptin resistance.
Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the gastrointestinal tract. It is a hunger hormone and one of its main functions is to increase appetite. Ghrelin levels are highest prior to a meal when your stomach is empty. Ghrelin works on the same receptor in the hypothalamus as leptin does, producing opposite effects. When people diet, ghrelin levels rise. This is another hormone effect that makes long term weight management challenging.
Finding help to overcome the real challenges involved in weight loss and maintenance of the weight loss is the focus of the Cederquist Medical Wellness Center. We started to look at genetic markers for weight and these metabolic hormone levels more than six years ago and were able to let our patients know that indeed, they had genetic markers that predisposed them to being overweight, to craving sweets, to regaining lost weight, to absorbing more fat from meals and having lower adiponectin levels. This was reassuring to some of our patients who then understood why weight loss was always so challenging for them. For other patients it was more disempowering as they were already working the lifestyle piece of the puzzle hard and felt resigned that further improvement in weight and metabolism was possible with their genes.
We have continued to research this area of genetic influences on weight and have recently utilized additional natural tools to influence the effects of chronic stress as well as raise adiponectin levels and lower ghrelin levels. Further fine tuning has shown that some of our patients need adjustments of the protein, carbohydrate and fat content of their meals once we have factored in several different genetic marker effects. We have been excited by the results our patients have experienced with this additional information and treatment. This fits so well into our charter:
“We partner with our patients to create a profound transformation that makes a lifelong difference in their health and wellbeing. We are experts in nutrition and metabolism. Firmly grounded in medical science, we are a refreshing opportunity for our patients who have difficulty obtaining an optimally functioning metabolism. We strive to continuously refine and explore the medical and metabolic reasons why achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can be so challenging for our patients who have achieved success and mastery in almost every other aspect of their lives.”