Guide to Understanding Hunger Hormones Ghrelin and Leptin

  • By: kim
  • Date: August 8, 2018
  • Time to read: 3 min.

Introducing Hunger Hormones

Did you know that we have hunger hormones? One is to increase our appetite and make us eat and you would have heard it grumbling in your belly, while another hormone primarily works to decrease our appetite. Would you like to be ‘ordering’ a few more of those?

Our hunger hormones are Ghrelin and Leptin and the most of us would have never even heard of these. The following information will give you a better understanding about your body’s hunger hormones and help you to better manage your weight.

Leptin and Ghrelin


Ghrelin is a hormone that increases your appetite. Ghrelin is released in the stomach and has the task of sending signals to your brain so that you can recognize you are hungry.

The body produces more ghrelin if a person is not eating enough. Therefore, skipping meals equals more ghrelin secretion. However, ghrelin in normal circumstances is reduced if the individual is eating too much. Studies have shown that levels of ghrelin increase in individuals who are suffering from anorexia nervosa. Conversely, ghrelin levels also decrease in obese children.

According to a study conducted in Germany, ghrelin may play a huge role in determining the length of time that “hunger” will be felt by a person. Normally, ghrelin levels dramatically increase when a person is hungry and eventually subside after having a meal. Researchers also reveal that the role of ghrelin is not only limited to increasing appetite. The hormone ghrelin additionally has the complex task of regulating an individual’s body weight.


Leptin functions as the appetite suppressor. This hormone is also believed to play a major role in a person’s energy balance. Some experts believe that leptin can also be responsible for regulating ghrelin hormones. It is leptin that sends signals to the brain to recognize that the body has enough immediate energy stores, or simply put, has eaten enough.


Unfortunately, studies have shown that people who are obese have often become resistant to the signals of leptin, despite the fact that they have high amounts of leptin in their body. Normally, the more fats you have stored, the higher your leptin levels should be. However, some factors also need to be taken into consideration such as the last time you ingested food, as well as your sleeping patterns.

How the Foods we Eat will Affect Our Hunger Hormones

A study led by David Cummings, M.D. from the University of Washington revealed how macronutrients influence the ups and downs of one’s appetite. During the said study, experts found that proteins have the highest influence with regard to suppressing a person’s appetite.

Fats were also found to only have neutral effects on an individual’s appetite. Researchers discovered that although carbohydrates initially lower one’s appetite, they will later increase an individual’s appetite to levels higher than before the carbohydrates were introduced into the body.

So if you want to lose weight, a very good start is to eat more proteins and less carbs, especially sugar-rich, high-GI carbs!

Snippets from Around the Internet

New role for ‘hunger hormone’

MIT neuroscientists have now discovered that ghrelin’s role goes far beyond controlling hunger. The researchers found that ghrelin released during chronic stress makes the brain more vulnerable to traumatic events, suggesting that it may predispose people to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Read more here

Role of Ghrelin, Leptin and Insulin Resistance in Development of Metabolic Syndrome in Obese Patients

Objective: Obesity and its complications including metabolic syndrome (MetS) have been increased in children and adolescents recently. Leptin is known to play an important role in the pathogenesis of obesity. The objective of this study was to evaluate the relationship between Leptin, Ghrelin and Insulin resistance in the development of metabolic syndrome in obese persons. Read more here

Mood effects of ‘hunger hormone’

The researchers are quoted in the article as saying that although signs of depression and anxiety decrease as ghrelin levels increase, “an unfortunate side effect…is increased food intake and body weight”. The researchers now want to look at the antidepressant effect of ghrelin in conditions such as anorexia.

This study has shown a link between ghrelin and anxiety and depression-like behaviour in mice. However, much more research will be needed to determine whether this hormone plays a role in anxiety and depression in humans. Read more here

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