How do ghrelin & leptin hormones affect weight control?

Ghrelin & leptin are ‘the appetitie hormones’….

These are two very important hormones that need to be balanced in order to maintain weight control.  Another one is insulin but that is discussed more in depth in another post. (Reference “How does insulin affect Type 2 Diabetes?” under the Category: 07-Hormones)

To put it simply:  Ghrelin stimulates the appetite (makes you hungry) and Leptin satiaties the appetite (gives you the feeling of fullness.)

It’s a grim statistic: Most people who go on a diet and lose weight end up regaining that weight within a year.

Doesn’t sound too promising.

Why does this happen? Well, there are many reasons.

  1. The big one is that people go on a ‘diet’ instead of changing their behaviors.  We need to develop a healthy lifestyle that can be continued throughout our lifetime….not just until we reach a desired weight goal.
  2. Another reason is that our bodies have appetite- and weight-regulating hormonal mechanisms that try to maintain homeostasis over the long haul. When we take in less food as in a diet, our bodies respond by making us hungrier.

These hormone imbalances cause us to feel hungry so we eat more.  And not only do we eat more but our cravings kick in and we eat things that raise our ghrelin….and so the cycle continues.

 Ghrelin increases hunger.

The ghrelin hormone raises the desire for high-calorie foods.

Ghrelin increases your appetite, slows metabolism, and decreases your body’s ability to burn fat, —making it a key player in the battle for weight loss.

Here are the most common reasons you’re raising ghrelin (your hunger hormone) without even realizing it.

  1. You’re consuming too much fructose.  You know to avoid soda and snack foods laden with fructose, but you probably don’t think about other sources of the sweet stuff (like fruit juice and honey)
  2. You’re on a low-cal diet.  When you lose weight via a calorie-restricted diet, you lower your circulating leptin levels and increase ghrelin (thusly increasing your appetite).
  3. You’re not eating frequently enough.  Ghrelin runs (is produced and secreted) on a four-hour schedule, according to research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.The 8 Best Things You Can Do For Your Metabolism >>>
  4. You’re not eating a high-protein breakfast.  The most satiating macronutrient is protein… Nutrition found men who ate a breakfast high in protein, compared to a breakfast high in carbohydrates, had decreased ghrelin concentrations. Protein increases feelings of satiety and decreases the need for further food intake, partially because they can’t be stored in the body; our body metabolizes them almost immediately, but, unlike carbs, this digestion process takes longer.Keep Body Fat in Check with a 35-Gram High Protein Breakfast >>>
  5. You’re way too stressed.  Chronic stress causes ghrelin to rise, according to research from UT Southwestern Medical Center. The good news: This increase in ghrelin helps to diminish behaviors associated with depression and anxiety. Bad news: Ghrelin causes you to overeat and ultimately gain weight (who hasn’t experienced stress munchies?). Your body’s natural defense against stress is causing you to eat more, causing you to gain more, causing you to stress more. Talk about a vicious cycle.
  6. You are not sleeping enough.

Research has shown that sleep patterns influence ghrelin. Sleep-deprived adults tend to have higher ghrelin levels, more hunger, and less feeling of fullness compared to adults who get seven-to-nine hours of sleep. So, be sure to get enough sleep. Your weight may depend on it.    (read more about sleep)

(read more about hormones)

Leptin decreases hunger.

It’s a vicious cycle.

  1. Eat more, gain body fat.
  2. More body fat means more leptin in fat cells.
  3. Too much fat means that proper leptin signalling is disrupted.
  4. The brain thinks you’re starving, which makes you want to eat more.
  5. You get fatter. And hungrier.
  6. You eat more. Gain more fat.
  7. And so on.

Leptin is a hormone that is tied closely to regulating energy intake and expenditure, including appetite, metabolism and hunger. When present in high levels, it signals to our brain that we’re full and can stop eating. When low, we feel hungry and crave food.

The bad news is that excess weight can lead to leptin resistance which is similar to insulin resustance.  The worse news is that a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology found that high fructose diets can also induce leptin resistance.

There’s good news, too, for those that are already overweight and leptin resistant: it’s only temporary. Research has shown that reducing fat content in leptin-resistant, obese mice allowed them to regain leptin sensitivity.  This is more easily achieved than regaining insulin sensitivity.  This is good because your body will be able to become more balanced hormonally as you heal from insulin resistance as well.

Reducing sugar intake and increasing omega-3 intake will help to correct your leptin levels.   And lastly, there’s something really simple that everyone can do to keep their leptin levels high and keep cravings under control: sleep well.

(read more) 

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