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Hunger Hormones: How They Work

Did you know Hormones are at work whenever you feel hungry? These are called “hunger hormones.”  At least six hunger hormones are working together with other minor hunger hormones in signaling your brain and your stomach. In this article, you will learn about three of the major hunger hormones that affect your willpower to lose weight.


This hunger hormone is your “fullness” signal. Fat cells release this hormone. Leptin tells your brain that the calories are enough for your body. It acts as a brake for overeating. That’s why when you are on a diet, leptin levels are low. Low levels of leptin trigger you to eat more until leptin reaches a normal level. It closely works with insulin and thyroid hormones to keep your body at a healthy weight.


Once your body develops resistance to these hormones, you are at risk of overeating and constant pangs of hunger. You will find it hard to stop eating even if your stomach is full. Ultimately, this will cause you to gain weight. Scientists have found that obese people have higher levels of leptin. Ironically, their brain and bodies cannot process the signals that the leptin hormones send to stop overeating.

Thus, leptin sensitivity is essential in keeping a healthy weight. Other hormones such as insulin and thyroid hormones are also important to weight management. These hormones tell your brain to stop eating because when your caloric intake is enough to carry out your body's metabolic processes.


This hunger hormone activates hunger. It induces appetite. The levels of ghrelin increase when you are hungry and decrease once you are full. For people who suffer appetite loss, their ghrelin levels may not be enough to induce them to eat despite being hungry.

Ghrelin is essential in keeping you alive. Without a sensitivity of the brain to this hormone, you may not experience hunger pangs. You do not know when to eat to keep your body nourished and healthy.

Neuropeptide Y (NPY)

NPY is a stronger hunger hormone than ghrelin. Similar to ghrelin, it triggers hungry mode and delays the “fullness” signal from leptin. Since body mechanisms are created in a complex manner, leptin still inhibits ghrelin and neuropeptide hormones. But with a decreased sensitivity to leptin, your brain and stomach may have delayed reactions from this inhibiting factor.

When these hormones do not behave as they should, you might feel hungry even eating after two hours. This vicious cycle is the culprit of weight gain and obesity. Aside from these hormones, emotional and stress factors can also be triggers.  Medical conditions such as hypothyroidism are also factors in weight gain problems.

Can you control your hunger hormones? Yes. Scientists have proven that eating nutritious moderately fat enriched foods is helpful in keeping your hunger hormones at bay. Food products that are high in protein and have a moderate level of carbohydrates are beneficial in keeping you sated until the next hunger pangs occur. This is a period of about 4 to 5 hours in between meals.

These hunger hormones are essential in keeping you healthy. Hunger is good since it tells your body that it’s time for nourishment. However, when hunger pangs occur more often than is necessary, seek help before it’s too late. It might be something more serious.

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