Today’s post is contributed by Malcolm K. Robinson, MD, FACS, Director of the Nutrition Support Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Laura Andromalos, MS, RD, LDN, Bariatric Nutrition Manager at BWH, and Hassan S. Dashti, PhD, a dietetic intern at BWH.
Have you ever thought about what makes you feel hungry or full? There are many signals in the body that help to control the amount of food we eat. Ghrelin, which is sometimes called the hunger hormone, is one of these signals.
Produced in the upper part of the stomach, ghrelin is a hormone that increases hunger. When the stomach is empty, ghrelin travels through the bloodstream and tells the brain to signal hunger. After eating, the stomach stops releasing ghrelin. Ghrelin levels change throughout the day. They are high just before eating a meal, letting you know that you are hungry, and low just after eating, letting you know that you are full.
When you eat less food through dieting, your ghrelin increases to high levels. This is your body’s attempt to make you eat more and slow weight loss. It also is part of the reason why people tend to feel hungrier during weight loss diets. On the other hand, overeating decreases ghrelin to lower levels, which results in less hunger, a sense of fullness, and less urge to eat. People with stable weights have fewer changes in their ghrelin levels and a more balanced sense of hunger and fullness throughout the day.