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Diet, Hormones and Weight Control

Hormones are a crucial link between what you eat and your weight.

These are not necessarily the hormones you hear about all the time. Sure, cortisol (the stress hormone) affects weight. And insulin resistance is a well-known cause of weight gain. But there are three other hormones that have as least as much effect. And you don’t often hear about these.

The three weight-related hormones are:

  • Ghrelin
  • Leptin
  • PYY

Let’s go over each of them.

Ghrelin (“GRAY-lin”)

Mostly made in the stomach, it stimulates appetite. When your stomach is empty, it makes more ghrelin. That triggers hunger. When you feel full, ghrelin levels go down.

So ghrelin affects how hungry you are. And your level of hunger affects how much you eat. That, in turn affects your weight.

Okay, I know I’m stating the obvious here. But if you can manage how much ghrelin you produce, you can make progress towards weight control. And the way to do that is by choosing specific foods. More about that in a minute.

Leptin

Leptin is sort of the “anti-ghrelin.” In other words, instead of raising appetite, it lowers it.

Leptin is made in fat tissue. The more leptin levels increase, the less hungry you will be. Conversely, the less leptin present, the hungrier you are.

PYY

This hormone is a peptide made in the small intestine. When food enters the small intestine, PYY levels go up. The effect of higher levels of PYY is to lower appetite. In other words, PYY is one of the reasons you are no longer hungry after eating.

Also, recent research shows that low levels of PYY are an early indicator of type II diabetes.

How To Use This Information

The above summaries give you an idea about some of the lesser known weight-related hormones. But how can you put this to work for yourself?

Actually it is rather easy. You just need to do things that move each of the hunger-related hormones in the right direction. And there are things you can do that affect all of these hormones positively. Here is the list:

  1. Eat Protein First. Protein takes longer to digest. That means it keeps you feeling fuller longer.
  2. Have Enough Fiber. Fiber also increases your feeling of fullness. It is the opposite of what happens when you eat refined foods. Low fiber refined foods tend to make you hungry quicker.
  3. Eat The Right Ratio of Fats, Proteins & Carbs. This is unique to each person. In general, most people don’t get enough protein. And often they don’t get enough quality fat. There isn’t a way to recommend the right amount in this article because your ideal ratio will be different than someone else’s. For more on this see this article: Early Warning Health Signals.
  4. Eat More Frequent, Smaller Meals. This not only helps regulate blood sugar, but keeps you feeling more satiated.
  5. Get Enough Sleep. Insomnia increases the tendency to gain weight. Partly this is because not sleeping increases ghrelin and lowers leptin levels. Sleep lowers ghrelin and increases leptin.

All the best to you for your health and happiness,

Dr. Bruce Eichelberger

Dr. Bruce

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References:

Gut Hormone PYY(3-36)“. August 8, 2002, PubMed.gov.

Low Levels of PYY Hormone A Very Early Indicator of Type 2 Diabetes“. March 12, 2008, ScienceDaily.com

Leptin, Ghrelin, Weight Loss: It’s Complicated” Feburary 25, 2011, PrecisionNutrition.com

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • KrisOctober 11, 2011, 9:25 am

    What is your opinion of HCG, it’s importance and possible benefits, and there seems to be a lot of controversy over quality in products on the market. Thanks, Dr. Eichelberger, love to read your articles!
    Kris

  • Dr. BruceOctober 11, 2011, 10:50 am

    Hi Kris,

    Thank you for your positive feedback on the articles. Much appreciated!

    Regarding HCG, I’m guessing you are asking about its use in weight loss. There is some controversy about this.

    Medically, HCG is used in fertility treatments. as a tumor marker and as part of anabolic steroid cycles in weight training. I am not aware of any research proving weight loss claims.

    If there are any anecdotal cases of people losing weight with it, I suspect it comes from the fact that it can support testosterone. Adequate testosterone levels support fat loss.

    Hope that helps.

    Dr. Bruce

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