ghrelin and leptin the hunger hormones and how they affect your life

Ghrelin and Leptin – The Hunger Hormones and How they Affect Your Life


Most people don't think too hard about how hunger works. Both hunger and fullness are controlled by hormones. Two of the primary hormones associated with digestive desire are Ghrelin and Leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for hunger—it encourages you to eat. It's also associated with body fat. Leptin is produced by fat cells and triggers the cessation of appetite.

Leptin is very important because it makes you feel full. Much like insulin, however, individuals that are overweight or obese tend to become increasingly resistant to the hormone. The more body fat that your body carries, the more Leptin that the body has to produce for you to lose your appetite. While these hormones are incredibly important, our full knowledge of how these hormones work has a lot of room to grow.

The Role of Ghrelin in Appetite

While Leptin is produced by fat, Ghrelin is produced mainly by the stomach. It's strongly believed that Ghrelin triggers a hunger response in the brain. Hunger response is higher in response to chronic hunger, and obesity tends to lower hunger response. There's some evidence that obese individuals are more sensitive to Ghrelin than their lighter counterparts.

There's also some evidence that Ghrelin Levels increase greatly in anticipation of a meal and remain low for a few hours after feeding. It's suspected that Ghrelin's influence on body fat is quite a bit more complicated than our current understanding reflects, however.

The Role of Leptin in Appetite

While Ghrelin is important, it appears that Leptin is the more dominant of the two Hormones. Leptin has more control over Ghrelin Levels than vice versa. When we eat, energy is absorbed into our fat cells for storage.

Once fat cells have taken in a certain amount of energy, they release Leptin to tell the brain that it's time to stop eating. Leptin Levels are most strongly associated with total body fat, but other factors also modulate Leptin, including sleep quality and the amount of time since one's last meal.

As mentioned earlier, individuals that are obese are very likely to experience Leptin Resistance. Animal research shows that a surge of Leptin reduces appetite significantly in the short term, but resistance develops over time.

How To More Effectively Manage Hunger Hormones

While the overall patterns of Ghrelin and Leptin remain predictable, there are some effective ways to control how our bodies respond to Hunger Hormones. There is some evidence that eating a diet that is too high in fat makes it harder for the body to feel full. A high-fat diet appears to encourage overeating in just a few days. Also, the body has trouble feeling full off of simple carbohydrates such as white bread and sugar. On the other hand, protein and complex carbohydrates contribute most effectively to feelings of fullness. There's also strong evidence that healthy sleeping habits make it easier to control hunger and appetite.

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