The Role of Hormones in Hunger and Satiety.
There are specific hormones that affect whether you feel hungry or full. Leptin and ghrelin are two ‘hunger hormones’ that play a significant role in your body’s energy balance, deciding when you eat, the quantity and even sometimes, what you eat.
Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells. High levels of this hormone decrease your appetite. Typically, thinner people will have lower levels of leptin, and heavier people will have higher levels. So, next time you see a thin or skinny person with a huge appetite, remember this. Meanwhile, the relationship between leptin and body weight isn’t quite that straightforward. There are many different factors that can influence your leptin levels, including stress, lack of sleep, and consumption of fructose.
Ghrelin is another hormone that affects hunger levels. This hormone, which is primarily released in the stomach, increases your appetite by sending a signal to the brain that you need to eat. Food intake is the primary factor that affects your ghrelin levels. Levels of this hunger hormone are typically high before you eat and go down for about three hours as you digest after a meal. In studies where ghrelin was administered to human participants, food intake increased by up to 30%.
Can “Hunger Hormones” Sabotage Your Weight Loss Efforts?
Research suggests that many obese individuals may be leptin resistant. Essentially, if you’re overweight or obese, you have high leptin levels, but the “I’m full” message that leptin is supposed to send to your brain may not be making it. This relationship between hormones and hunger may lead you to feel hungry even when you’ve recently eaten and to expend less energy (i.e. burn fewer calories).
Additionally, ghrelin, which is believed to play a long-term role in regulating body weight, may cause increased hunger when you diet. Because you’re eating less than you normally do, your body produces more of the ghrelin hunger hormone, which sends a message to your brain that you should eat to maintain your current weight.
However, the two hunger hormones, leptin and gherelin, and the hunger pangs they cause don’t have to ruin your weight loss efforts. If you’ve been struggling to stick to a diet and lose weight because of overwhelming hunger, it may be time to schedule a consultation with a medical weight loss consultant. Your doctor may prescribe an appetite suppression medication, which can block hunger hormone signals and increase your energy.