The leptin diet was designed by Byron J. Richards, a businessman and board-certified clinical nutritionist. Richards’ company, Wellness Resources, manufactures herbal supplements designed to support the leptin diet. He’s also written several books about leptin and its role in weight loss and health.
Leptin was first discovered in 1994. It’s a hormone produced in the fat stores of your body. Its job is to signal your brain when you’re full, triggering you to stop eating. Leptin also supports efficient metabolism. Its role in weight loss, weight gain, and obesity has been studied in animals and humans.
Leptin travels through your blood, via your circulatory system, to the appetite center of your brain. There, it binds to receptors that are responsible for making you feel hungry. This helps tamp down your appetite, curbing your desire to eat. Leptin also travels through your nervous system, stimulating fatty tissue to burn off fat and calories.
If too much leptin builds up in your blood, you may develop leptin resistance. When this occurs, the leptin in your body may not do its job effectively, resulting in weight gain. The exact cause of leptin resistance is unknown, but obesity and stress may play a role. Cortisol, a hormone that’s released when you’re under stress, may make your brain less receptive to leptin and cause you to overeat.
Since its discovery, leptin has been the focus of multiple animal and human studies. Researchers have analyzed its effect on weight gain, obesity, and appetite. As reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, some studies in mice suggest that dieting may have an adverse effect on leptin production, causing leptin levels to drop. When leptin levels drop, your brain believes you’re in danger of starvation, causing your body to hold onto fat stores and reducing your ability to burn calories through exercise.
Another animal study, led by investigators at the University of Cincinnati Metabolic Diseases Institute, determined that leptin levels don’t affect or cause obesity in mice.
There’s no credible research to suggest that taking leptin in supplement form helps to alter leptin levels.
Like many diets, the leptin diet imposes restrictions on what you can eat. You may find it hard to stick with the diet or you may feel unsatisfied with your food choices.
As with any diet plan, it’s best to check with your doctor before starting the leptin diet. It may not provide enough calories if you’re extremely active. It may not be suitable for children or young teens who have different caloric requirements than adults.
The leptin diet centers around five rules:
- Eat foods that supply 20 to 30 grams of protein for breakfast.
- Don’t eat after dinner. Make sure not to eat anything for at least three hours prior to bedtime.
- Eat three meals a day only, with no snacking in between. Allow for five to six hours to pass between each meal.
- Reduce your carbohydrate intake, but don’t eliminate carbs completely.
- Practice portion control at each meal. Don’t eat until you are stuffed. Stop before you feel completely full.
To follow this diet, you should learn about the caloric content in the foods you eat, but you won’t need to count calories obsessively. The diet also places a strong emphasis on eating fresh, organic foods and avoiding chemical additives and ingredients you can’t pronounce.
The need for protein and fiber is also stressed. It’s recommended that each meal contain around 400 to 600 calories, in the following general ratio:
- 40 percent protein
- 30 percent fat
- 30 percent carbohydrates
The leptin diet allows you to eat a wide range of vegetables, fruits, and protein sources, including fish, meat, chicken, and turkey. Fruit, rather than sugar-dense desserts, is the suggested dessert option. You can also eat nut butters in moderation, eggs, and cottage cheese.
Protein-dense grains and legumes, such as quinoa, oatmeal, and lentils, are also good choices. A lower carbohydrate intake may lead to gut bacteria changes and/or constipation, so choose high fiber foods as often as possible.
The leptin diet allows adherents to eat a variety of healthy food choices. But if you feel persistently hungry, it may be hard for you to stick with the diet. Not being able to eat when you are hungry contradicts mindful eating and listening to your body’s cues. Also, any diet plan that requires or heavily promotes supplementation is a red flag.
If you feel drawn to the leptin diet, it may yield the results you’re hoping for, but ask yourself if it is something you can stick with long-term. Long-term health is dependent on long-term healthy behaviors. No diet is one-size-fits all. If you don’t enjoy the leptin diet, there are other weight loss strategies that you can try. Ask your doctor about different approaches to weight loss, including the benefits and risks of different diets.
When you’re on the leptin diet, you’re supposed to avoid artificial sweeteners, regular and diet soda, and energy drinks. You’re also encouraged to eliminate soy products of any kind.
Because of its emphasis on smaller portions and no snacking, some people feel hungry on this diet. Drinking lots of water, or taking fiber supplements, may help.
The leptin diet requires you to control when you eat, as well as what you eat. Creating a routine that distracts you between meals, and includes moderate exercise, may help you to stick with the diet and successfully lose weight.