What drives appetite? Why does it seem like we have no control over food and its so difficult to lose or maintain weight loss? In last week’s article on hormones, we discussed ghrelin and leptin. To quickly review, ghrelin is the “hunger” hormone and plays a role in stimulating appetite. Leptin is the “satiety” or starvation hormone that plays a role in stopping us when we have eaten enough food. If these two are in balance, we should be able to maintain adequate energy levels and body weight throughout our lives. In today’s article, we will explore what happens when these hormones fall out of balance and what we can do to fix this situation.
Ghrelin is just one of many factors that play a role in why we eat. We eat based on a variety of reasons including social cues, our genetic makeup and time of day for example.
Researchers are still studying ghrelin and we know more about leptin currently. Leptin is released by our fat cells and operates in what is called the leptin feedback loop. This feedback loop relays important information to our brains regarding our energy balance. Through this loop system, our brain gathers information about how much energy we have consumed in our food and surprisingly, how much energy we have stored in our fats cells. The higher our body fat the, more leptin we have circulating in our bloodstream.
As with anything we are exposed to over time, we can lose the ability to respond appropriately. This loop becomes broken. Much like insulin resistance that occurs in diabetics, we can develop leptin resistance as well. This break fools the brain into thinking that leptin levels and body fat are low and then initiates the following physiological response:
These three responses together leads to more weight gain and low energy levels. Some believe this could play a role in why so many regain weight previously lost. As body fat falls when we lose weight so does our leptin levels.
So what can be done to “fix” this broken feedback loop and restore balance? The first step is to reduce inflammation that is linked to leptin resistance. Start by implementing the following steps:
Obesity research is still ongoing in the field of how hormones influence body weight. Inflammation in the body is proving to be linked to many health issues resulting in chronic diseases. Reducing inflammation is key. The above steps can help to start reducing inflammation leading to improvements in health, performance and body composition.