Foods are not exactly what influence how much we eat.
The major factors to consider are our feelings of hunger, desire for certain foods, like sweet stuff, how much stress our body is dealing with, how long we take to eat, and if we are trying to lose weight.
There are seven hormones that influence how much we eat. And experts have been studying them to develop treatment for type 2 diabetes and obesity, which is now a global epidemic, according to the World Health Organization.
Lawrence Cheskin, a gastroenterologist and professor of nutrition and food studies at the George Mason University College of Public Health, explained in National Geographic that ‘some of these hormones are influenced by genetic factors, while others are affected by lifestyle, certain medical conditions, and/or changes in body weight or composition. Against this backdrop, various hormones influence the short-term regulation of food intake—primarily to prevent overeating at any given meal—while others focus on long-term regulation to maintain normal amounts of energy stores in the body.’
What are these seven hormones and how do they influence our eating?
- Leptin. This hormone is produced by fat cells to signal our brain that it has reached satiation and to reduce our appetite and consumption of food. Its main function is to protect the body from getting starved and losing fat mass. Obese people have higher levels of these hormones.
- Ghrelin. This is the so-called hunger hormone, levels of which are high before we eat and decrease when we are done. This hormone creates a problem for us when we are trying to lose extra pounds by cutting calorie intake, because it stimulates hunger more intensely. Also, when we have a higher baseline levels of this hormone, we tend to experience more cravings, especially for sweet and high-fat foods, based on a study.
- Cholecystokinin (CCK). Known as a satiety hormone that comes from our gut, it helps us to feel full and to ease digestion through proper metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It also signals our brain to help in appetite reduction, although more studies must be conducted to fully understand how this hormone works.
- Insulin. Produced in the pancreas, this hormone helps cells to regain energy by putting more glucose into them from the carbs we consume. It also helps to make us feel satiated.
- Cortisol. This is also called the stress hormone, which increases when we are in a fight-or-flight situation. Although it also helps in regulating our body’s metabolism, higher levels of cortisol are behind greater storage of fats and resistance to insulin. Moreover, our cravings, especially for sweet, salty, or fatty foods, are influenced by a sudden increase in cortisol.
- Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). This hormone that helps digestion is produced after eating, signaling fullness and making us feel satiated for a longer period of time.
- Glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP). Coming from the small intestine, this hormone influences increased production of insulin for more glycogen and fatty acids. This way, loss of fat is prevented. But this is still a new hormone under study.
According to experts, we should not focus on just one hormone to attain weight loss, because all of them work together. It’s also important to bear in mind that to have a healthy and balanced diet, we must also manage stress effectively. Exercise can help, as well, in regulating hunger and appetite by decreasing the levels of ghrelin and increasing GLP1.
Meanwhile, a good sleep helps to lower your body’s cortisol and ghrelin levels while boosting your leptin levels.