Have you heard of ‘hunger’ hormones? Two hormones control how full we feel – feeling satiated after a meal or hunger pangs from an empty stomach. Keeping those two hormones, Ghrelin and Leptin, in balance is important for maintaining a healthy weight and overall wellbeing.
Feeling hungry before eating and comfortably full after a meal may be two of the most familiar sensations we experience during our day. Symptoms of hunger can be caused by several factors, but our appetite is regulated by a number of hormones that are released under certain nutrition states. In particular, Ghrelin and Leptin are thought to have a significant influence on how hungry or satiated we may feel.
These hormones play an important role in regulating our normal eating patterns and in balancing energy in and energy out – which of course helps us maintain a healthy weight.
How do hunger hormones work?
- Ghrelin helps to stimulate appetite and is believed to be released primarily from stomach cells in response to gastric emptying. Ghrelin levels are thought to be higher when you are hungry and lower after a meal.
- Leptin is released once you have eaten. It signals the brain that your energy stores have been topped up. Leptin plays a part in stopping further food intake and in increasing energy expenditure. Leptin is primarily released from adipose (fat) tissue, which makes sense considering this is where most of our excess energy is stored. Resistance to Leptin can result in over eating – because your brain has not received the signal that your energy reserves are topped up.
What causes Leptin resistance?
People with a high body fat percentage are likely to release higher levels of Leptin than others, which in theory should help to reduce the desire to overeat.
However, people with higher levels of body fat could also be more prone to developing Leptin resistance – where the brain becomes so overexposed to Leptin it can end up ignoring it.
Early research found that overindulging and overeating caused Leptin resistance, more recent studies suggested that consuming high levels of refined sugar and saturated fat in the diet may be responsible for Leptin resistance. It is likely to be a combination of both of the above.
What you can do?
To keep hunger hormones under control, try to take notice of how your body feels during your next meal and start looking at what’s really in your food.
Try eliminating as much sugar and artificial trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) as possible. Cooking meals from scratch is one of the best ways to do this, as you can decide and control exactly what you add. Eating “real food” is best.
If you are feeling comfortably full during or after dinner, make an effort to put down your knife and fork – regardless of what may be sitting in front of you.
If you have cravings that are hard to control, you might like to have a look at this blog post here.
If you begin to listen to your body, your hunger hormones are more likely get back into balance and start working for you. Here is some more tips and a nice little visual video that explains it really well.
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- Mindfood magazine