How does one become addicted to food? Is it mental or physical? Do we think our way into bad eating habits or do we eat because the food is readily available and we just can’t turn down that free piece of cake at the office party? That’s what I want to discuss in this post.
Some people believe that food addiction is an emotional response to food, while others believe that our physical environment (restaurants, and junk food) causes us to overeat foods filled will salt, sugar and fat.
While these are possible factors to food addiction there are other scientific factors to consider. The one factor that may affect a lot of us over 40 is leptin deficiency or leptin resistance.
Leptin is a hormone. It’s been called the obesity or fat hormone as well as the starvation hormone. Why is it called the obesity or fat hormone? Because it is made in the fat cells.
When it is produced it circulates in the bloodstream and moves to the brain. Once it reaches the brain it tells it that you have enough energy (fat storage) to survive or that you need to produce more fat for energy.
Leptin regulates the amount of food we eat and our body weight. So this is a gene that controls our appetite. And get this—Leptin levels, as well as their receptors in our brain, decrease as we age.
Therefore, lower leptin levels causes us to eat more. The brain thinks your body doesn’t have enough fat on it so it makes you believe you have to eat more to put on more fat which produces more leptin causing leptin levels to rise.
Yo-Yo dieting can cause your leptin levels to plummet. This is why it is called the starvation hormone. Not eating enough food tells your brain that you are in starvation mode and that your leptin levels are low. This causes your basic drive to eat salty, sweet, fatty foods to kick in.
Obese people make more leptin than average size people because of the fat cells in their body. So why aren’t our bodies smaller because of the over production of leptin?
Well, the brain cells become resistant to leptin when too much is produced. They become immune to the signal to stop eating. If the cells can’t get the signal to the brain then the brain can’t tell you to stop eating and this causes food addiction and weight gain. You keep eating, and eating, and eating salty, sweet, fatty foods.
What can you do about it? Balance your leptin levels. Exercise is a good start. Exercise improves leptin sensitivity. It helps it work properly in your body. Eating protein, carbohydrates, and fats (lots of fruits and vegetables) in proper proportions is another way to balance your leptin levels.
Most importantly, schedule a visit with an endocrinologist and have them check your hormone levels to see if you are leptin deficient or if your cells are producing too much leptin causing leptin resistance.