What is a Hunger Hormone, and How Does It Affect You?
What Is Ghrelin?
In 1999 ghrelin was discovered by Masayasu Kojima. The name was chosen based on it being a “growth hormone-releasing peptide”. “Ghre”, as the Proto-Indo-European root, translates as “to grow”.
Ghrelin is known as the hunger stimulator. It is a 28-amino acid hunger stimulating hormone and peptide. The levels of ghrelin decrease after eating and increase before meals. Even though it has various functions within the body, it has been isolated and recognized as the first circulating hunger hormone.
There are some bariatric operations to treat obesity in which the level of ghrelin is reduced in patients. This helps to cause satiation or the feeling of fullness before it would naturally kick in.
Studies show that ghrelin increases fat mass and food intake by an action that occurs in the hypothalamus within the brain. Cells within the arcuate nucleus, including the orexigenic neuropeptide Y neurons or NPY are activated. The ghrelin response factor of these neurones is insulin sensitive as well as leptin sensitive.
Leptin is the counterpart to ghrelin in that it is the other hormone that is responsible for making us feel either satiated or hungry.
An anti-obesity vaccine has recently been developed which supposedly works by targeting the ghrelin hormone. The vaccine utilizes specific antibodies in the immune system to attach to specific targets and ends up directing the body’s immune response against them. This combination of events stops ghrelin from getting to the central nervous system. The result of this process is purported to be a potential reduction in weight gain.
Ghrelin May Dictate Food Choices
Studies indicate that having high levels of ghrelin can make junk-food and high calorie snacks seem more appealing. This may be why we choose chocolate or cake over the refrigerator full of fruits and vegetables, and why we are more apt to do so when we are hungrier. The effect of this hormone is so profound that it actually mimics a fasting state within the body.
The brain responds to this hormone with a mild panic response, causing it to target high-energy foods. These are normally the food types which provide more energy than can be readily used by the body and which, unfortunately, are quickly stored as fat. This is why there is an increased appetite for high-calorie foods rather than low calorie items.
How To Keep Your Ghrelin Gremlin Levels Happy
The best way to be proactive with your hunger is to eat small, protein rich meals throughout the day. If you are having something every 2 to 3 hours, you won’t have a chance to become ravenous. By keeping your body eating on a regular basis, the ghrelin levels will not take over and make you want to eat copious amounts of the wrong types of foods. Consuming some protein with every meal will enable you to stay satisfied longer and will greatly assist with weight control.
All this information may seem pretty dry, but it all leads to a basic understanding of how our bodies work and why we crave foods that ultimately do not serve us. In my experience, this knowledge helps us all make better informed choices for our long-term health and well-being!
Helping You Live Healthier in a Major Way!
Cheryl A Major, CNWC