How Hormones Control Hunger, Eating & Satiety

Updated: Mar 23


Key Takeaways

  • Hormones are involved in both the desire to eat and satiety or reduction in appetite

  • Emulsifiers in highly processed foods limit the gut’s ability to identify what is in the food and send satiety signal to shut down hunger

  • Neurons in the gut that sense sugar trigger the release of dopamine and encourage you to eat more sugar

  • The order you consume macronutrients influences blood glucose levels: carbs and fat early in meal give rise to blood glucose; eating fibrous vegetable first will blunt glucose increase

  • If you struggle with blood glucose regulation: move or exercise before or directly after eating, be mindful of the order in which you consume foods

  • Managing blood glucose plays a critical role in managing cholesterol as well

  • Over the counter supplements that have been shown to decrease blood glucose: berberine, ginseng, magnesium, apple cider vinegar and acidic foods, yerba mate, chromium

Biology & Physiology Of Appetite

  • Hypothalamus is a control station for hunger, eating, and satiety – involved in promoting both feeding and not eating

  • Arcuate nucleus: a set of neurons in the hypothalamus

  • Melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH) is released from the pituitary gland and reduces appetite

  • Activated by ultraviolet light to eyes and keeps appetite in check

  • MSH is the reason animals and humans tend to have reduced appetite in the warmer months


  • Agouti-related peptide (AGRP) neurons stimulate eating and emotion involved in anticipation of food – if stimulated, you will eat like crazy

  • Ghrelin is released from the GI tract and increases the desire to eat by stimulating neurons that increase hunger and anticipatory signals

  • Ghrelin causes cravings or desires to eat certain foods at certain times of day

  • If you generally eat at the same time daily and begin feeling hungry at those times – it’s ghrelin activating that sensation of hunger

  • If you want to change the eating window (e.g., longer fasting) ghrelin secretion can be shifted by 45 minutes per day – so ease into it and push back the window every day until it’s where you want to be

  • Cholecystokinin (CCK) released by the gut has a powerful effect in reducing appetite

  • CCK release is governed by neurons and mucosa of the gut microbiome and stimulated by fatty acids (specifically omega-3s), amino acids (specifically glutamine*), and sugar

  • Glutamine can reduce sugar cravings – but also increase blood sugar levels

  • *Many cancers and tumors feed on glutamine so always talk to a doctor before supplementing


  • Insular cortex gets input from the mouth has and powerful control in whether you enjoy what you’re eating, the sensation of eating, whether you want to continue eating, etc.

  • Endocrine signals are involved in hunger and desire to eat

Damaging Effects Of Processed Foods

  • A calorie is not a calorie

  • Emulsifiers in highly processed foods shut down CCK and turn off recognition of satiety

  • Emulsifiers in highly processed foods limit the gut’s ability to identify what is in the food and send satiety signal to shut down hunger

  • Neurons in the gut that sense sugar trigger the release of dopamine and encourage you to eat more sugar

  • Highly processed foods increase weight gain, disrupt lining of gut, and disrupt hormonal and neural systems that increase desire to eat

  • Increased consumption of highly processed foods has caused staggering increases in diabetes, obesity, and other related diseases

Insulin

  • Food is broken down into sugar and released as energy

  • Blood sugar needs to be kept in a certain range

  • If glucose gets too high, neurons can be damaged or killed causing loss of sensation in hands, feet, and eyes

  • Type 2 diabetes: insulin is secreted from the pancreas but the person is insulin-insensitive – often associated with overweight and obesity

  • Type 1 diabetes and often be managed by diet and lifestyle

  • Type 1 diabetes: pancreas produces little or no insulin – often associated with weight loss

  • Macronutrients are associated with an increase in blood glucose in the following order (highest to lowest): carbohydrates, fat, protein

  • Glucagon: secreted when hungry

  • The insulin system manages glucose, glucagon system pulls energy out of the liver and muscles for fuel until glycogen stores are depleted (then glucagon pulls from fat)

  • The order you consume macronutrients influences blood glucose levels: carbs and fat early in meal give rise to blood glucose; eating fibrous vegetable first will blunt glucose increase

  • Blood glucose levels can be heavily modulated by moving and exercise before eating

  • Zone 2 cardio that lasts 30-60 min dramatically increases insulin sensitivity and stabilizes blood sugar

  • High-intensity interval training and weight training repackage glycogen and trigger mechanisms to shuttle glucose to glycogen and storage of food

Breakdown Of Cholesterol

  • Want LDL to be low and HDL to be high

  • Fats don’t like water but you need to move fats in the bloodstream so HDL and LDL allow them to move through the bloodstream

  • Adequate HDL is good because you can move fats to tissues that manufacture hormones

  • When LDL is high, you can get a buildup of fat

  • There’s a lot of debate about how dietary cholesterol impacts LDL and HDL

  • How to keep LDL/HDL in the proper ratio: manage glucose

Supplements And Prescription Drugs

  • Metformin reduces blood glucose by changing mitochondrial action in the liver

  • Berberine is over the counter and mimics metformin with a similar pathway and results

  • Chromium, ginseng, magnesium, apple cider vinegar, and acidic foods have been shown to have a minor impact on blood glucose

  • Caffeine has been shown to slightly increase blood glucose

  • Stevia is the best in terms of sweeteners and will not raise blood glucose like other artificial sweeteners – but the sweet taste itself will increase the desire to eat so will probably cancel out

  • Yerba Mate can help regulate blood sugar and has a slight appetite suppressant quality


 

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