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  • Writer's pictureKareem Abed MD

Do Hormones Control Your Hunger?

Hormones control us, from the moment we wake up. As we  plan our day, we have hormonal signals telling us when we feel hungry and full. These play a crucial role in our behaviors and relationship with food, which impact our energy balance. 

Hormones include insulin, glucagon-like peptide 1, leptin, ghrelin, insulin like peptide 5, and cholecystokinin (CCK), and originate from different organs including fat cells, stomach, colon, small bowel and pancreas. Signals from these hormones are communicated with the hypothalamus, and will lead us to feel either hungry or full. 

Leptin and Ghrelin are major hormones which act on the hypothalamus, with ghrelin known as an orexigenic hormone, originating in the stomach and driving us to feel hungry.  Ghrelin is a rapid acting hormone, and levels drop up to an hour after eating and filling the stomach.  

Leptin on the other hand is produced in fat cells (also known as adipose cells), and suppresses our appetite, leading to weight loss, hence calling anorexigenic hormone.

Additional proteins causing hunger are the neuropeptide Y (NPY) and agouti related-peptide (AGRP), whereas inhibitory (satiety) proteins include cocaine and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) and melanocyte-stimulating hormone (ɑMSH). 

Our fat cells produce leptin.  As we gain more fat mass, the leptin level rises, and over time, leptin resistance may develop, further impacting our ability to lose weight. Basically our bodies become less sensitive to the increase in leptin. However, our bodies remain very sensitive to a decrease in leptin, which is why when we lose weight, the “hunger pains” seem so real.   

Patients often wonder if they have a leptin deficiency and if that is causing the increase in weight. Leptin deficiency is a rare congenital disease, most often picked up in the pediatric population. The treatment for these patients is leptin injections. 

Understanding how hormonal shifts within our bodies can help us improve the way we view food, and gravitate towards those that with our hormonal spikes.



When seeking advice from a physician you can ask:

- What types of food can you eat to overcome those hunger pains?

- How do my hormones affect my weight loss journey?

- What types of comorbidities come with obesity? weight loss doctors


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