Are hunger and satiety signals different in obesity?
Obesity has become a very dangerous word today. Multiple studies have found that the leading cause of many conditions is high visceral fat, or weight accumulated around the abdomen. Many people mock obesity and link it to someone’s poor will power. Is this true? Riya is in her early fourties and is obese. She tried losing weight for many years, alternating between a two hourly diet plan from a well known book, to juicing and became more and more frustrated when people around her commented that she still had fat in spite of doing so much. Eventually she gave up.
Amara is in her twenties and wants to be the size zero. She too has tried everything from juice cleanses to grapefruit diets. She tried a diet prescribed by a Nutritionist who applies a “calorie in calorie out” method, aiming for a deficit in calories to lose weight. She lost some weight in the first few months, and then found her B12 levels crashing low, as also her Iron levels. She became dejected and eventually gave up, and found her weight steadily creeping up. Eventually she came across a blog on social media talking about how your body is beautiful even in obesity and to love yourself even in obesity. What this created in her mind, was that worrying about being obese was unnecessary, and she was beautiful even if she was fat.
When obesity is talked about with alarm, it is usually those who understand the serious physical implications of it. Endocrinologists understand that obesity can put you at risk for multiple endocrine disorders, most importantly Diabetes. Cardiologists understand that it can put you at risk for cardiovascular disease. Neurologists link obesity to higher risk for stroke. Oncologists link obesity to a higher risk for cancer. Obesity also puts you at risk for liver damage, fatty liver disease, gallbladder disease, breathing difficulties and much more.
Now, when someone does not want to speak about the dangers of obesity today, it can be alarming. In wanting to be in the realm of being politically correct, obesity as a danger for health is being pushed under the rug. When someone speak out about obesity, they are not speaking against aesthetics of anyone. But, obesity is now falling under the dangerous blanket of diabesity. Diabesity is used to refer to a form of diabetes which typically develops in later life and is associated with being obese. It means that if you suffer from being overweight or being obese, you will develop diabetes or prediabetes in the future. If you suffer from being prediabetic, then you will develop obesity later. Obesity can no longer be ignored, simply because of the thought that it is simply aesthetics.
How does hunger and satiety differ in obesity? Ghrelin is the hormone in your body which makes you hungry. It is produced by your stomach, and also in your intestines and in your kidney. Typically, when your stomach is empty, ghrelin is released into your blood, crosses your blood brain barrier, where it connects with your hypothalamus, and signals hunger. It is usually highest before a meal and shuts down while eating. But in obesity, it remains even after a meal, making it seem like hunger is present. High fructose increases ghrelin. If someone becomes insulin resistant or has PCOS, then ghrelin can drop. This again describes diabesity, when being prediabetic or overweight makes your hunger signalling skewed. You may not feel hungry at all. When ghrelin increases, you feel hungry all the time! So it’s not that someone who is obese has no will power, but that their hunger signals can differ.
How does satiety differ in someone who is obese? Leptin is your hormone of satiety. It tells your brain to to curb your appetite after eating making you feel satiated. Leptin and obesity are interconnected in a big way. Adipose tissues or fat produces leptin, from where it is secreted into your circulatory system, reaching the hypothalamus in your brain, telling it that there is enough and to stop eating. In obesity, when there are more fat cells, more leptin is produced. Much like when insulin is constantly secreted and you become insulin resistant, excessive leptin secretin makes you leptin resistant. What happens then is that you might keep secreting leptin, but your brain stops listening! This then makes you never feel satiety! Especially in obese women, fat is under the skin, and produces higher leptin levels. Once again, high fructose can also be a problem, causing leptin resistance. So while leptin is a hormone, it is produced in fat cells, making the fat cell an accomplice in multiple problems.
Bad sleep is a crucial link to leptin and ghrelin. It’s alarming how many people are sleeping poorly today and not realising the massive repurcussion on health. How is sleep connected to hunger and satiety? A study done in Chicago found that after a sleepless night, ghrelin went up making you more hungry, and leptin went down making you less satiated!
So if you do have a problem with obesity you do not have to give up trying to lose weight or making yourself feel bad that you do not have willpower and forcing yourself to starve. Understanding how hunger and satiety signals work in someone with obesity can go a long way in starting to lose weight. I’ll leave you with a few tips to improve leptin and increase your satiety signals.
5 Takeaways to improve Leptin and Satiety:
- Improve sleep – Again, know that just one night of poor sleep can reduce leptin and increase ghrelin. This makes you less satiated and more hungry. It’s not your lack of will power but how these hormones make you feel.
- Avoid post dinner snacking – When you keep snacking late into the night, you go away from leptin’s natural biorhythm. It misregulates leptin levels. Leptin should be highest only in the evening, where it influences melatonin, helping sleep.
- Avoid two hourly meals – If you keep eating right through the day, leptin moves away from the way it should behave. A five hour gap between meals helps regulate leptin levels. Eat as your ancestors ate, just two or three meals.
- Reduce carbohydrates – This does not mean that you stop eating carbohydrates. It just means that you should eat more plants.
- Get protein – Protein helps satiety and allows leptin to feel regulated.
To conclude, obesity is not the result of your lack of will power. But, it is something that should not be ignored either. While you need not gain a size zero body, it is time to reclaim back your health and vitality!
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