Ghrelin: what it is, what it is used for and how to keep hunger hormone at bay

Ghrelin is a hormone normally produced in the stomach when empty. Also referred to as the hunger hormone, we find out why high ghrelin levels interfere with weight loss.

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La ghrelin it is a hormone that is produced and released in the stomach. People often call it "thehunger hormone"Because it increases appetite, it also promotes blood sugar regulation, prevents muscle breakdown and protects the heart. (Read also: Here is the hormone that extinguishes hunger. The discovery of the University of Bari)


Ghrelin: what it is

Ghrelin is a hormone produced primarily in the stomach when empty; it is also produced in the small intestine, brain and pancreas.

This travels through the bloodstream to the brain, where it acts on thehypothalamus, that is the part of the brain that produces the hormones that regulate hunger, mood, thirst and many other important functions. Ghrelin is often referred to as the hunger hormone because its main role is to regulate appetite. When ghrelin activates its receptor, the growth hormone secretagogue receptor, it causes a person to eat more food and store excess fat.

In people who are trying to lose weight or who have recently lost weight, ghrelin levels are often higher, making it difficult to keep weight loss in check. For example, one study looked at people with diabetes who participated in a weight management program over 2 years, participants who initially lost weight slowly regained it over the duration of the research. The team also found that weight loss was associated with increased ghrelin levels and increased hunger.

Ghrelin can also signal the body to reduce brown fat thermogenesis. When this happens, the body burns less fat at rest. Brown fat is known for its thermogenic properties, and the ability to increase overall calories burned.

Studies show that ghrelin also affects the sleep / wake cycle, taste sensation and craving for food. For this reason, many experts believe that higher ghrelin levels may contribute to food and alcohol abuse.

Recently, researchers have found that this hormone also performs other functions, including improving heart health, preventing muscle atrophy, and influencing bone metabolism. It can also stimulate the secretion of gastric acid as well accelerate gastric emptying.

What causes ghrelin levels to rise?

Ghrelin levels change frequently throughout the day, and are mainly controlled by food intake. Levels usually rise when the stomach is empty, and decrease after eating.

Some studies show that obese people have higher levels of ghrelin around. This can lead to continual hunger, and make weight loss difficult. Interestingly, experts believe that people who have undergone weight loss surgery have lower levels of this hormone, which may make it easier to maintain normal weight.

Notably, a recent review found ghrelin levels drop significantly after gastrectomy. Researchers believe this is because part of the stomach - the gastric fundus where most ghrelin is produced - is completely removed. However, the results of other studies are not consistent for other procedures such as gastric bypass. 

Finally, people with certain health conditions tend to have high ghrelin levels; obese people and those with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) have very high levels of this hormone, which can play a part in their constant feeling of hunger and difficulty controlling weight.

People with thyroiditis, anorexia nervosa, bulimia also tend to have the highest hunger hormone levels. Ghrelin also rises during times of stress; higher levels are believed to have a anxiolytic effect.

How to increase ghrelin levels

Although high ghrelin levels are commonly perceived as unfavorable and associated with increased appetite, some individuals may benefit from it. For example, anyone who needs to gain weight or has wasting syndrome can benefit from the appetite-stimulating effects of ghrelin.

More recent studies suggest that the administration of ghrelin could potentially be useful in patients with cancer cachexia, because it can help reverse weight loss and protein breakdown in catabolic states. Although short-term ghrelin administration appears to be safe and well tolerated, further studies on its efficacy and safety are needed. Additionally, a study involving men with HIV found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in cannabis, can stimulate the release of ghrelin.

How to decrease ghrelin levels

I ghrelin levels they may increase after weight loss. Decreasing levels can help reduce appetite, prevent weight regain and promote weight loss.

However, it is important to note that other studies show that monitoring ghrelin alone is not sufficient for weight loss, as other behavioral, physiological and environmental factors are also at play.

To reduce ghrelin levels you need to:

  • follow a healthy diet: ghrelin levels tend to rise when dieting, and not enough calories are ingested. Avoid fasting and eat a diet rich in nutrients to limit ghrelin secretion. For example, one study found that high-fiber foods could reduce levels of this hormone.
  • get enough sleep: Having a unregulated sleep it is linked to high ghrelin levels and reduced leptin levels, which lead to increased appetite and hunger. To get better rest, aim for at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
  • eat more proteinEating protein-rich meals and snacks can help promote satiety and reduce ghrelin levels. Researchers suggest getting between 1,2-1,6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 25-30% of daily calories to promote weight management and appetite suppression. 
  • limit stress: Although removing stress altogether is next to impossible, studies show that high levels of chronic stress can lead to high ghrelin levels. In addition to signaling hunger, ghrelin can affect brain function.
  • do exercise: According to a review, researchers found that exercise suppresses the production of ghrelin. However, they also found that long-term exercise programs can have the opposite effect.

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