I’ve spoken about the role the hormone leptin plays in type 2 diabetes before in other posts but this one is a huge topic and certainly deserves its own article. I speak about insulin excess a lot on here and the reason is that this plays such a huge role in our disease but there are other hormones as well that influence it significantly, and leptin is one of them.
There’s actually two fronts here, and this is a lot like type 1 versus type 2 diabetes. In type 1, there is a deficiency of insulin, and type 2 is the opposite, insulin excess and manifestations of this excess over time, and even when insulin levels normalize more when you’ve had type 2 for long enough, the damage from this excess insulin persists.
So in the first case, the type 1 diabetes, we need to increase insulin levels, or actually look to control excess glucagon more, as insulin’s main role in regulating blood sugar is actually in keeping glucagon in check, as glucagon is the main hormone that raises blood sugar. Too much glucagon means too high blood sugar, it’s the singular reason we have high blood sugar actually, and without insulin or when it goes very low, glucagon goes crazy, blood sugar goes crazy, and this plus some other things that happen to you when you are severely insulin deficient leads to your death if not controlled.
People used to just die with this disease until we figured out that injecting insulin would save people’s lives, but the problem was that we took this idea and applied it to type 2 diabetes as well, which is the complete opposite disease, where we make too much.
This is something that we don’t bother checking out though and no one cares where your insulin levels are, they just want to raise them to lower blood sugar, but when the high blood sugar is driven by excess insulin over a long period of time, and the excess glucagon that this creates, that’s not a good idea at all.
So what happens with type 2 is that, in a nutshell, our pancreas secretes too much glucagon not because it doesn’t have enough insulin to keep it in control, but because it’s been exposed to so much insulin over time that it doesn’t recognize it properly. The liver, which actually puts out the extra blood sugar, recognizes all of this glucagon but doesn’t recognize insulin as it should, so both are high but the liver thinks our blood sugar is very low, deadly low even.
The story of leptin is similar, you have some people who don’t make enough, and are leptin deficient, and some people who make too much. The overwhelming majority of people make too much and therefore become leptin resistant.
Leptin deficiency is something that not a lot of people know about but it manifests itself as someone being skinny, and it’s due to a lack of fat, called lipodystrophy. The medical community is aware of this condition but it only treats or even cares about extremes, and the full blown version of this results in extreme thinness, and that’s treated with leptin injections.
There’s also a condition called partial lipodystrophy where there is a lack of adipose tissue overall, fat tissue, and the patient is generally skinny other than having excess fat in the abdomen. In particular, we see skinny arms and legs and perhaps a good amount of abdominal fat.
The interesting thing about this condition is that the excess fat in the abdomen produces not only the usual negative effects but positive effects as well. Insulin levels are in excess and one would be obese if not for the lack of adipose tissue in the body overall.
Partial lipodystrophy appears to be a lot more common than most people think and the part that fools people is the abdominal fat, but when we test people’s leptin levels we see that this isn’t that uncommon. Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, who discovered leptin, believes that leptin injections should be used with type 2 diabetics that present this way, and it does really help manage the condition, although leptin injections are outrageously expensive.
There aren’t a lot of good ways to increase leptin when we are leptin deficient though, and this is what can make it even more challenging to manage type 2’s of normal weight. Losing more weight typically doesn’t help as this tends to lower leptin levels even more, and low leptin and leptin resistance is a big deal with diabetes management.
5-HTP does increase leptin though and this isn’t a well known fact at all, and you never really see this recommended, although we do have some insight that a lack of serotonin plays a role in all this, and this is a supplement that is readily available over the counter, so it’s something people that suspect that they have leptin deficiency to some degree can consider.
Omega 3 also helps this condition, and a lot of people don’t get enough Omega 3 fats. We get too much Omega 6 though and this imbalance can cause a number of things besides contributing to low leptin levels.
All the focus is on the other type of leptin problem, leptin resistance, and this is the one which affects people who have too much fat overall. Leptin is secreted by fat cells, and when you have too much fat, this leads to too much leptin, and then the body gets deaf to it like it does with insulin.
There are some things that you can take to improve leptin sensitivity, things like African mango, although they only work a bit and the only way to manage this is to reduce your carb intake, reduce your insulin levels in turn, and lose enough of this excess fat.
Why does leptin action matter to type 2 diabetics? Leptin is one of the two main hormones that regulates glucagon, and high glucagon is what causes high blood sugar, period. When one is leptin deficient or resistant, this results in an elevation of glucagon and a corresponding elevation of blood sugar.
So we need to pay attention to leptin as well, and we’ve also determined that lack of leptin sensitivity in the hypothalamus causes our brain to signal the need for more glucose independent of blood sugar. This looks like it’s a huge, huge deal actually, from what we’ve been able to discover so far. We know that the hypothalamus plays a big role in blood sugar regulation, hardly anyone is aware of this nor cares, the medical profession is really back in the cave man days of diabetes management and they don’t really have much of a clue about how diabetes works anyway, so don’t expect your doctor to even know much about leptin or the role of the hypothalamus in diabetes.
IF they don’t know about something, then they arrogantly pretend it doesn’t exist, although one can go off on their own and learn some of the things they aren’t taught about, like leptin, or just about anything else worth knowing where diabetes is concerned.
This is where we need to look though if we want to manage our disease the best way we can, and making the underlying hormonal imbalances worse by pumping us even more full of insulin and making us both more insulin resistant and, in almost all cases, more leptin resistant as well, isn’t the answer to be sure, as this will only worsen things over time. That’s diabetes though as they say.
From looking at what we do actually know about all of this, I think that serotonin plays a big role in leptin sensitivity of the hypothalamus, as well as other issues such as the excess release of adrenal hormones that increase blood sugar. Type 2 diabetics tend to have higher levels of cortisol secretion and when serotonin is low in the brain this is what happens, especially among those who feel wired and depressed along with their high blood sugar.
It’s interesting to note that diabetics tend to have lower serotonin levels, and we know that there is some causation involved here, and if we are low in DHEA, which people middle aged or older tend to be, and markedly low actually, this will only worsen things. There’s actually a pathway here, low DHEA causing higher cortisol, and higher cortisol causing higher blood sugar, and that’s a hormone we need to be paying a lot more attention to as well.
The medical profession isn’t interested in correcting hormone imbalances though, that’s not where the real money is, it’s always a lot more profitable to worsen imbalances, and they never choose the safer natural path, such as looking to prescribe 5-HTP instead of dangerous anti-depressant medication.
Magnesium deficiency is also something to really look at here and especially looking to get enough magnesium in the brain by taking Magtein, which is the only magnesium supplement that effectively crosses the blood brain barrier.
It’s always better to look to actually try to make things better rather than worse, although when it comes to the very common condition of leptin resistance, if you are overweight, you’re going to be messed up regardless, and the first step is to get your insulin levels down so your weight can more normalize, and then over time, you can see your leptin and insulin resistance both improve.