Meet Ghrelin and Leptin: you may not know them by name, but they know you. Ghrelin and Leptin are chemicals, or hormones, that we have in our bodies to regulate our weight and eating. Specifically, Leptin, made from fat cells, decreases the appetite, whereas Ghrelin increases the appetite and also affects body weight. As with most of our bodily functions, these hormones respond to how we treat ourselves—essentially, they are a blueprint for how we put what we put into our bodies.
Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the gut. It is often termed the hunger hormone and it travels through your bloodstream and to your brain, where it tells your brain to become hungry and seek out food. Ghrelin’s main function is to increase appetite. It makes you consume more food, take in more calories and store fat (1). In addition, it affects your sleep/wake cycle, reward-seeking behavior, taste sensation and carbohydrate metabolism (2). The higher your levels, the hungrier you get. The lower your levels, the more full you feel and the easier it is to eat fewer calories. So if you want to lose weight, lowering your ghrelin levels can be beneficial.
Leptin is a hormone that's produced by fat cells, and it works to suppress appetite in the brain. Because leptin is produced by fat cells, the amount of leptin released is directly related to the amount of body fat; so the more fat an individual has, the more leptin they will have circulating in their blood. Leptin levels increase if an individual increases their fat mass over a period of time and, similarly, leptin levels decrease if an individual decreases their fat mass over a period of time. Leptin has a profound effect when we lose weight and levels of the hormone fall. This stimulates a huge appetite and increases food intake (3). The hormone helps us to maintain our normal weight and unfortunately for dieters, makes it hard to lose those extra pounds!
Managing Appetite Hormones
The following tips can help stabilize hormone levels that affect hunger: