Ghrelin is an appetite hormone which can cause you to eat too much and make the wrong food choices. Is there a way to lower ghrelin levels naturally?
Could blocking the effects of the appetite hormone, ghrelin help overweight and obese people control their appetite? Researchers recently presented the results of a new study looking at the effects of ghrelin at the 92nd Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society in California – and it shows the important role this hormone plays in food selection and appetite.
What is Ghrelin?
Ghrelin is a hormone produced by cells in the stomach and pancreas that stimulates hunger and motivates a person to eat. In contrast to the better known hormone leptin which reduces appetite, ghrelin has the opposite effect by boosting appetite It’s usually present in higher amounts in people suffering from anorexia and people who skip meals – particularly breakfast. Heading out the door in the morning without eating breakfast sends levels of this appetite hormone higher – and sets the stage for overeating later on in the day.
Ghrelin Hormone and High Calorie Food Cravings
When researchers showed eighteen adults of normal weight photos of either high calorie or low calorie foods, those who had either skipped breakfast or received a ghrelin injection found the high calorie foods – particularly sweet foods – more appealing than lower calorie foods such as salads and vegetables. On the other hand, those who ate breakfast or got a saline injection rather than the ghrelin hormone found low calorie foods to be just as appealing as the higher calorie ones.
This may explain why people who skip meals often make the wrong food choices when they finally sit down to eat. It also explains why people who suffer from anorexia have high levels of ghrelin – to motivate them to eat to avoid starvation.
Could There One Day Be a Way to Block the Secretion or Activity of Ghrelin?
Some scientists think this offers the best chance of curing the obesity problem since dieting is not a long term solution. Ghrelin levels usually rise when a person restricts calories too much which leads to regain of any weight that was lost through calorie restriction. This can send a person into a cycle of binging and restricting which is neither healthy – or a solution to the obesity problem.
Unfortunately, a pill to block the effects of ghrelin is many years away. A vaccine that keeps ghrelin from reaching the brain where it can stimulate hunger has already been developed and tested on mice, but hasn’t undergone human testing yet.
To lower ghrelin hormone levels naturally, try drinking an eight ounce glass of water before meals. This slightly lowers ghrelin, so you’ll end up eating less. The other way to naturally reduce secretion of ghrelin is to eat breakfast every morning. If you don’t, your stomach will start kicking out ghrelin early and it will be build up throughout the day leading to an increased appetite. Make sure breakfast includes a source of lean protein too.
The bottom line? The appetite hormone ghrelin plays an important role in appetite and overeating. Keep this appetite hormone from raging out of control by eating breakfast and drinking more water.
Eurekalert.com website. “Stomach hormone ghrelin increases desire for high-calorie foods”
PNAS.org website. “Vaccination Against Weight Gain”