Controlling the Hunger Hormone

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 28, 2016

A young caucasian woman standing in front of the open refrigerator at late night, contemplating and wondering about a midnight snack in a domestic home kitchen. She is dressed in a bath robe hungry and looking for food. A symbol of dieting lifestyle. Photographed in vertical format.

Research has shown that ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone, is impacted by sleep patterns and weight loss surgery.

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.

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Take Charge of Your Health: Five Tips from a Physician-Athlete

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 23, 2016

Healthy food and fitness background concept

Wellness includes healthy eating, exercise, and mindfulness.

Dr. Claire Twark is a third-year resident in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Psychiatry and a seasoned triathlete. In this post, she offers some valuable wellness strategies that she uses in her own work and training.

I believe that wellness is a lifestyle. It includes healthy eating and exercise, as well as mindfulness and wellness within relationships. I recommend proactively thinking about your own wellness and setting improvement goals for yourself. I often advise patients to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) goals, such as going to the gym for 30 minutes twice in the next week or increasing their daily step count by a few thousand steps.

Here are five tips to consider:

  • Wellness opportunities are all around you. We are all busy, so use the wellness opportunities that are readily available. Try walking to work, taking the stairs, and choosing healthy food options.

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Boston Marathon – Getting Ready for Race Day

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 16, 2015

Dr. Cheri Blauwet is a member of the Women’s Sports Medicine team and two-time winner of the Boston Marathon women’s wheelchair division.

Today’s post is from Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics, and Dr. Cheri Blauwet, a member of the Women’s Sports Medicine team and two-time winner of the Boston Marathon women’s wheelchair division.

As we move into spring, road race season has come into full gear. Distance running is a great form of cardiovascular exercise and is available at distances from the mile to the marathon – and everything in between! Perhaps you are even training for the big event, our own Boston Marathon.

When thinking about race day, it is important to keep some basic principles in mind. By being well-prepared, your event is assured to be more fun and successful. Below are some tips.

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Eating for a Healthy Heart

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 26, 2015

Whole grains are a key part of a heart-healthy diet.

February is American Heart Month, and today’s blog post from the Nutrition and Wellness Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) highlights the heart-healthy foods you should eat regularly. Aside from eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, your diet should include:

Nuts

The Science:

Scores of studies show that eating nuts reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Packed with nutrients, nuts may help by lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels, improving dilation of blood vessels, and combating elevated blood pressure.

What You Should Do:
  • Snack on ¼ cup or a handful of nuts each day.
  • Add them to salads, stir-fries, cereal, yogurt, and side dishes.
  • Aim for lightly salted or unsalted types to limit added sodium.

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New Evidence that a Mediterranean Diet May Lead to a Longer Life

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 8, 2015

Researchers have found that sticking to a Mediterranean diet may lead to a longer life.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have found that sticking to a Mediterranean diet may lead to a longer life.

The findings are based on the study of telomeres, the repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes. These chromosome tips get shorter every time a cell divides, and their length is a reliable biomarker (biological indicator) of aging in humans. Shorter telomeres have been associated with an increased risk of aging-related diseases (particularly cardiovascular diseases) and a decrease in life expectancy, while longer telomeres, correspondingly, have been linked with longevity.

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Eating after Bariatric Surgery

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 24, 2014

After bariatric surgery, you’ll be introduced to a diet that features gradual changes in food textures.

You’ll have to start eating differently after having weight loss surgery, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to give up all your favorite foods. Let’s start by talking about how things will be different.

Your stomach acts as a holding tank for food and beverages and as a strong muscle that grinds and churns your food, helping with digestion. Depending on the procedure, weight loss surgery either removes a large portion of your stomach or significantly restricts access to your stomach. And, as you can imagine, reducing the capacity of your stomach makes it much harder for it to do its job.

To help your stomach adapt to this increased workload, you’ll be introduced to a staged diet that features gradual changes in food textures. You’ll drink protein shakes for two weeks and then slowly advance to soft foods for four weeks. With time, you should be able to tolerate a variety of textures, as long as you eat slowly and chew carefully. For more information on the post-operative (and pre-operative) diet, see the Nutrition Resources section of our Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery site.

Surgery + You = Weight Loss

Weight loss surgery alone doesn’t ensure that you’ll lose weight and keep it off. You also will need to change the way you eat for the rest of your life in order to be successful. This means reducing your calorie intake by eating small portions and avoiding calorie-packed foods and beverages. Fortunately, your modified stomach is a built-in portion control tool, so all you have to do is put healthy foods on your plate and stop when your stomach is full.

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Is a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet for You?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 5, 2014

There are various health advantages associated with a vegetarian diet .

If you’re thinking about abandoning red meat and poultry in favor of a predominantly plant-based diet, it’s important to know what the nutritional benefits are of vegetarian and vegan diets.

“There’s certainly some research on the benefits of the vegetarian diet,” says Kathy McManus, Director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She ticks off the various advantages associated with this way of eating – lower body mass index and blood pressure, and reduced risks for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

If you’re thinking about going vegetarian or vegan, but are worried about making a big change in how you eat, know that there are many different layers to this way of eating. The most common approaches are these:

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Proposed Changes in Food Nutrition Labels

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 22, 2014

For the first time in 20 years, the Food and Drug Administration is formally proposing changes to nutrition labels on food packages.

For the first time in 20 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is formally proposing changes to nutrition labels on food packages. This should help us all make more informed and, hopefully, better nutrition decisions – ultimately having a positive impact on weight management and other aspects of our health. Notable among these proposed changes are:

  • Bigger and Bolder Labels that Emphasize Calories and Serving Size

There will be an emphasis on ensuring that listed portion sizes reflect what is actually being consumed, rather than the amount that should be consumed. For instance, a 20-ounce bottle of soda or juice, typically finished in a single sitting, would be labeled as one serving, rather than the 2.5 servings typically listed now. In general, servings per container of any packaged item also will be highlighted on the label.

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Fruits and Veggies – Are You Getting Enough?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 6, 2014

Recent research suggests that eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day would be worth your while.

It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables are good for you. But are you eating enough of them?

Fruits and vegetables contain a unique combination of nutrients and healthy compounds, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Diets rich in these plant-based foods are associated with a reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and macular degeneration; increased energy and stamina; and a bevy of other health benefits. Five servings of fruits and vegetables per day is a good start, but recent research suggests that adding a few more servings would be worth your while.

What’s the Evidence?

Below is just a sampling of recent research that supports the recommendation of eating more fruits and vegetables.

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Smart Snacking for the Athlete

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 19, 2014

It's important to eat and drink enough before, during, and after your workouts.

Today’s post was contributed by Registered Dietitian Kate Sweeney, manager of the Nutrition Consultation Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and a key member of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at BWH. Kate is an accomplished triathlete and is ranked among the top 18 female triathletes, ages 30-34, in the country.

Whether you are training for a marathon or just working on improving your fitness level, making sure you eat and drink enough before, during, and after your workouts is an important part of optimal sports nutrition. If you’re under-fueled for training, you may experience hunger in the middle of your workout or feel sluggish. You also may feel that you’re working hard but not seeing improvement in your strength or endurance.

To be adequately fueled for each workout session, snacking between meals and eating during training is often required. Being consistent with your nutrition before, during, and after training sessions also is key to training and success on athletic event days.

Here are some guidelines:

Pre-Workout Nutrition

Pre-workout snacks provide energy, add to glycogen stores, and decrease risk for low blood glucose levels. If you are planning a workout lasting one hour or more, or your workout is of high intensity, a smaller meal of 50 grams carbohydrate two to three hours before, or a snack of 15-25 grams carbohydrate one hour before can be consumed.

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