• Hormone ghrelin and its impact on weight

    Hormone ghrelin and its impact on weight

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    Many of us have done drastical diets, promissing to get us rid of excess weight quickly. The problem with such diets is, that the results are temporary and most of the cases we regain the lost weight, because of the yo-yo effect which these kind of diets have on our body. With such kind of dieting it is also very likely that we gain few extra kilos on top.

    The sudden stress, that our body encounters and the slowdown of the metabolism during such dieting with sharp reduction in calorie intake are some of the reasons for their ineffectiveness. A key role here play also the hunger hormones – leptin and ghrelin.

    What is ghrelin?

    Ghrelin is a hormone, produced in the stomach, which has a major role in regulating our appetite. When it’s levels in the body are high we experience hunger and when they are low our appetite decreases. If you want to lose weight safe and with lasting results, you should aim to keep the levels of ghrelin in your body as low as possible. This way you will reduce the risk of overeating and won’t feel hunger.

    The hormone ghrelin is produced primarily in the stomach, but small amounts of it are also being produced in the small intestine, pancreas, adrenal glands and in our brain.

    What is the function of ghrelin?

    Ghrelin is considered as one of the hunger hormones, because it stimulates the appetite, increases the food intake and contributes to the deposition of adipose (fatty) tissue. Ghrelin acts on the hypothalamus – a gland of the autonomic nervous system located in the brain, which plays an important role in controlling the appetite and provides information to the brain about the internal state of the body.

    How does ghrelin increase appetite?

    Ghrelin signals your brain about the occurrence of hunger and this way your appetite increases. It is suggested, that this signal is transmitted in three different ways:

     By the parasympathetic vagal nerve and terminal nucleus of the medulla, where any information from the body to the brain and vice versa is exchanged.

     By production of ghrelin directly in the hypothalamus, which affects different centers of the gland.

     By releasing ghrelin from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood and its passage through the blood-brain barrier and binding to the receptors in the hypothalamus.

    On empty stomach, just before a meal the levels of ghrelin increase sharply and decrease as soon as you have eaten your meal. According to German scientists the low levels of ghrelin in the body persist about three hours after a meal.

    Which factors have impact on the ghrelin levels?

    The main factor, impacting the ghrelin levels is of course the food intake. Every time you eat, the levels of ghrelin decrease. There are however other important factors, that play a role here as its interaction with other hormones, different body charecteristics, the kind of food you eat, etc.

    Ghrelin levels decrease, for example with aging, at higher levels of growth hormone, blood sugar and insulin and with weight gain. Your gender plays also a role – the levels of this hormone are usually higher in women than in men.

    How to reduce the ghrelin levels in the body?

     Eating enough protein with every meal. It is especially important to eat protein in the morning. A study showed that eating protein at breakfast affects strongly the hunger hormones. Egg whites and high-quality whey protein powder are a great choice for breakfast.

     Getting enough sleep. An experiment with 12 men, that continued only one night showed that those of them, deprived of sleep have increased levels of ghrelin and increased appetite, and with those who slept 10 hours the levels of the hormone are lower and they don’t feel hunger.

     Eating less and often. Responsible for suppressing the production of ghrelin is another hormone – peptide YY. It is secreted when you eat less and often.

     Reducing your stress level. In response to stress, the production of ghrelin increases.

     Adding healthy fats in your diet. The good fat contained in foods, such as salmon and avocados suppress the signals of hunger to the brain.

    Useful links:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16469977
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18564298
    http://news.mit.edu/2013/ghrelin-ptsd-1015

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