What Is the Leptin Diet?
One of the newest trendy diets — the Leptin Diet — claims to regulate leptin for weight loss. But does it?
Leptin is your body’s built-in fat-fighter. Produced by your fat cells, leptin is a hormone that makes you feel full. This helps keep your appetite in check and cravings at bay, explains New York trainer Albert Matheny, M.S., R.D., C.S.C.S.
What’s more, leptin balances out other weight-regulating hormones in the body, and helps control your metabolic rate. Leptin largely works against ghrelin, “the hunger hormone.” Leptin and ghrelin work in the brain’s hypothalamus; whereas other hormones like peptide YY (PYY) and GLP-1 are released in the gut simultaneously after a meal to stimulate satiety. If you’ve heard the adage that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that you’re full, it’s because it takes some time for these hormones to send the “OK-you-can-stop-eating-now” hint to the brain.
Matheny explains that leptin levels tend to operate less ideally in people who are overweight. The amount of leptin circulating in the body is proportional to the amount of body fat that person has. When someone becomes obese, the body’s cells develop resistance to leptin and leptin receptors can’t bind with leptin to deliver messages of fullness to the brain.
The Leptin Diet is designed to regulate those leptin levels. No wonder it’s taking off.
What Are the Basics of the Leptin Diet?
The Leptin Diet was designed by Byron J. Richards, a clinical nutritionist and founder of supplement company Wellness Resources. It revolves around five primary guidelines:
- Never eat after dinner or within three hours of bedtime.
- Eat three meals a day, with five to six hours between every meal.
- Stop eating when you are slightly less than full.
- Get about 20–30 grams of protein at breakfast.
- Reduce, but don’t completely cut out, carbs.
The Leptin Diet also recommends that people eat about 400–600 calories at each meal — with about 30 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 40 percent from protein, and 30 percent from fat. It prioritizes eating whole, organic, and minimally processed foods, drinking more water, and avoiding caloric beverages and those containing artificial sweeteners. Soda, energy drinks, and foods and drinks that contain soy are banned on the diet.
How Does the Leptin Diet Work?
The Leptin Diet cuts calories and limits opportunities for overeating or mindless eating, which are big problems for most of us. But does it do much to promote the normal production of leptin in those with leptin resistance? A 2015 study published in BMC Biochemistry revealed that digested wheat gluten can inhibit the binding of leptin to the leptin receptor; however, more research needs to be done to verify this finding.
Will you improve your leptin levels by cutting way back on carbs and pumping up the protein at breakfast? Probably not, but research hasn’t completely ruled this out.
However, what does have a large impact on your leptin levels is sleep, which, unfortunately, the diet does not address. In a review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Penn State researchers concluded that getting less than six hours of sleep per night significantly decreases leptin levels and spikes hunger.
“Over all, it’s an OK diet, but it’s kind of weird,” says Denis Faye, M.S., senior director of nutrition content for OpenFit. “The fact that you need to wait five to six hours to between meals is just a weird theory. There’s no science backing that up. And although [the diet] is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, it doesn’t go low enough with carbs to be ketogenic. It’s like it’s trying to be a ketogenic diet, but it’s not really committing to it.”
Faye recommends that most people, especially those who are serious about fitness, consume more carbohydrates (which requires eating slightly fewer grams of protein). The macronutrient balance he recommends if you’re trying to lose weight and exercising regularly: 40 percent of your daily calories from carbs, 30 percent from protein, and 30 percent from fat. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source, especially for high-intensity exercise.
Fat, though, if you haven’t noticed, is trending right now. It seems that the Leptin Diet is trying is trying to jump on that bandwagon. “It’s trying to make itself just different enough to sell,” Faye says.
The Fine Print
To follow the Leptin Diet to a T, people also need to take the company’s LeptiSlim supplement between meals and the Leptin Control Pack to “get beyond a weight-loss plateau.”
If you are considering following the Leptin Diet — including its recommendation to take its supplements — it’s important to talk to your doctor prior to popping any pills.
“In the end, weight loss comes down to sensible eating, exercise, and having a healthy relationship with food,” Faye says. “You can do everything to manage your hormones, but unless you do these things, you won’t lose weight.”