How Leptin Problems Raise Blood Pressure

February 21, 2011 | Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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 How Leptin Problems Raise Blood Pressure
Leptin registering in your brain is fully responsible for your metabolic go signal. If leptin does not register properly then your brain thinks there is a food shortage and you may be starving. Unfortunately, most overweight people have way too much leptin in their blood (leptin resistance) and not enough leptin getting into their brain and registering properly (a false state of perceived starvation). This unfortunate state poses numerous problems to your circulatory system and your risk for heart disease. The latest study on this subject explains what has been learned in the past decade and how leptin problems cause high blood pressure1 and eventual cardiovascular damage.

The most basic explanation of the problem is that excess food consumption results in elevated blood fats called triglycerides. Too much fat in your circulation slows the rate of flow of your blood. Like congested traffic at rush hour, it causes your heart to pump harder to push vital compounds and nutrients in your blood to locations elsewhere in your body. Furthermore, the elevated triglycerides clog the leptin receptors at your blood-brain barrier and reduce the ability of leptin to get into your brain normally – causing or locking in leptin resistance. This means you will feel inclined to eat far more food than you need in order to get a full signal and have some energy. It is a rather vicious catch 22, as the more food you eat the more the triglyceride fat blobs slow down your circulation, make you tired, elevate your blood pressure, and cause you to crave more food.

However, the above scenario is only part of the problem. When leptin registers in your brain it gives a go signal that activates gene switches that give you metabolic and motivational drive. These gene instructions are carried out by activating your sympathetic nerves. This has the net effect of increasing blood tension or pressure to prepare for the increased activity and delivery of nutrients to muscles so that they can perform at a higher pace. This is normal.

In order to balance the increased activity, leptin also triggers the release of friendly nitric oxide in your circulatory system (eNOS). This has a lubricating or relaxing effect on your circulation, and is intended to buffer the potential stress of increased activity. This is what leptin does when you are healthy and not overweight; it maintains a nice balance of activation and relaxation in your circulatory system. When you have leptin resistance you still get the sympathetic nerve activity but there is a failure to make adequate eNOS. This causes excess tension in your circulatory system, excess inflammation, and excess production of free radicals that can damage your LDL cholesterol and induce it to form plaque in your arteries.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the excess leptin of leptin resistance depresses adiponectin, which like eNOS is anti-inflammatory to your circulation. This locks in the inflammatory problems within your arteries and creates an environment at risk for arterial damage, plaque accumulation, and chronically elevated blood pressure.

An organ that suffers high stress from leptin resistance is the kidneys. While much of your body goes numb to the excessive adrenaline, your kidneys do not. Multiple “energetic” signals bang into your kidneys and stress them out. This is further complicated by the fact that your kidneys filter your blood and now your blood is full of damaged cells and “garbage” due to excess inflammation and free radical damage.Your kidney regulation of fluid balance is impaired, resulting in high blood pressure and salt sensitivity.

There are also many leptin receptors on your heart. Like your kidneys, your heart is hit with excessive adrenaline causing electrical disruption. Additionally, there are leptin receptors on platelets so leptin resistance promotes excessive clotting risk. It inhibits the ability of your body to break down inappropriate clotting (impairs fibinolysis), it induces system inflammation via CRP activation, and it induces macrophages within fat to generate excessive inflammation (TNFa and IL6).

While the details of this complex picture are still emerging, it is quite safe to say that the human genome was not designed to deal with the over-consumption of food. Your heart, kidneys, and general circulation are subject to abusive stress when you gain weight. You don't have to lose all of your weight to begin unraveling these problems; you just need to engage the process of weight loss in a healthy way. By creating a weight loss trend, you begin to unravel the problems.They keep improving over time as you eventually get to your goal weight.

Referenced Studies

  1. ^ Leptin and High Blood Pressure  Int J Hypertens.  Kshatriya S, Liu K, Salah A, Szombathy T, Freeman RH, Reams GP, Spear RM, Villarreal D.

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