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Leptin & Ghrelin Lessons

You know my hat’s off to you if you are trying to lose weight. You know I want you to stay away from sugar-added foods, fried foods, other simple carbohydrates. 

Have you heard about ghrelin? You need to know this stuff. When it comes to desire for food, you’re largely at the mercy of the hormones leptin and ghrelin. A rising ghrelin level prompts your brain to register the sensation of hunger. As you eat and fulfill your body’s need for nourishment, leptin rises, ghrelin drops, and hunger fades.

I wish it was that simple. A 2002 New England Journal of Medicine study followed subjects’ ghrelin levels over the course of a six-month weight reduction effort. After the first three months, each of the overweight subjects had lost an average of nearly 40 pounds. By the end of the study they had managed to maintain that level of weight loss.

One of the key reasons dieters typically regain lost weight is that as body weight dropped, ghrelin output increased. At the end of the study, the subjects’ LOWEST ghrelin levels were almost as high as their pre-meal ghrelin peaks before their weight-loss program began.

 There are three steps you can take to help control ghrelin levels.

1) Get enough sleep

Research shows that ghrelin levels are generally higher and leptin levels are lower in people who regularly get inadequate sleep. As a result, hunger is more pronounced during the day. And worse: Sleep-deprived people tend to desire calorie-dense, high-carbohydrate foods.

But for most people, a full eight hours of sleep each night may not be necessary to moderate ghrelin/leptin levels. A 2006 sleep study shows that many overweight people may experience benefits by adding just 20 minutes of additional sleep each night.

2) Avoid fructose

Fructose makes ghrelin rise. And fructose shows up in a wide range of processed foods.  High fructose intake is linked to higher ghrelin levels, and lower leptin and insulin levels.

3) Don’t attempt a crash diet

A weight-loss diet that starts right in with a steep drop in calories is a shock to the system – a shock that’s more likely to prompt ghrelin increase. If you ease into a new regimen of less caloric intake your body adjusts incrementally. And of course, avoiding simple, refined carbs is a must. Consumption of inferior carbs just makes you hungry for more carbs.

I wish you the best on your diet journey!

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