What Is Hunger?

Everyone instinctively knows what hunger feels like. However, the biology behind what makes us hungry involves more complex matters.

Hunger begins with a hormone called ghrelin, which secreted in the lining of your stomach. After your body digests the food you have eaten and has used it as energy, your blood sugar and insulin levels begin to drop. Your gut will react by producing ghrelin and start signaling your brain that your body is in need for more fuel. In response to this, your brain releases another hormone named neuropeptide Y which will help stimulate your appetite.

See this article to learn more about this subject.

Correlation between Ghrelin and Leptin

While ghrelin plays an important part by sending a hunger alert to your brain, leptin will be the counterpart hormone that helps to decrease your hunger. This particular hormone is hidden in your fat cells, stomach, heart, and other parts of your body.

The amount of leptin your body produces will be depending on the amount of fat you have.  mainly in fat cells and a few other locations. It also correlates with fat mass. The more fat that you carry, the more you will make.

The mechanism of leptin is the hormone, created by fat tissue, travels to the circulatory system. From there, it travels further to the hypothalamus (part of your brain that controls the hormone production) by letting it know there is enough fat. In response to the message, the needs to eat diminishes and the hormone begins to boost your metabolism.

What is Leptin Resistance?

If your brain depends on leptin to control your hunger, then why some of us are having difficulty to control the urge to stop eating?

There is a possibility your brain has stopped reacting to the signal (produced by leptin) to reduce your hunger and to increase metabolism. As far as your body knows, you are still hungry.
The cycle runs as follows:

  1. Body fat increases as you eat more.
  2. More leptin is produced in the fat cells as your body fat increases.
  3. Leptin doesn’t properly communicate to the brain when there is too much fat.
  4. The brain thinks you need more food.
  5. You end up getting fatter and hungrier.
  6. You eat more and gain more.
  7. The cycle repeats itself.

This kind of resistance is similar to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when your body’s cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. Insulin is the hormone that is responsible for unlocking the cells to receive glucose.

Both of these phenomena may occur with obesity. There are a few theories for why the obesity occurs. One theory is leptin is having difficulty getting to the hypothalamus due to the possibility of the proteins that carry leptin across the blood brain barrier may not be functioning properly.

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