Ever hear of hunger hormones? Heiki Cunningham, RDN stopped by My West Michigan to talk about the hunger hormones Leptin and Ghrelin and shares what we can do to help control our appetites. These are the two hormones that have major impact on feelings of hunger and fullness. These are not the only hunger hormones but two major players in controlling appetite

Some foods that help battle hunger hormones:

  • Watercress
  • Spinach
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Navy beans
  • Flax oil
  • Mustard seed
  • Red lentils
  • Walnuts


Fat is actually an endocrine organ, a gland that produces hormones…it is not simply a storage place used for insulation

Leptin – produced by fat cells, appetite suppression. So the more fat cells you have the more leptin your body has…but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the more leptin you have the less hungry you are. When you become obese you develop “leptin resistance” the leptin receptors don’t bind with the leptin…basically you have all this leptin roaming around but the message isn’t getting where it needs to go! So now hunger actually INCREASES.

Ghrelin – The most powerful hunger stimulating hormone that we know of. It is secreted from the lining of the stomach and head to the brain to tell us we need to eat. Ghrelin is one of the reasons that many in the field of nutrition recommend eating on a schedule. Ghrelin won’t stop. It will just grow and grow and works on about a 4 hour cycle rising before a meal and then dropping off after. By ignoring this real hunger response you may likely eat more when you finally give in. Ghrelin is not any higher in an obese person but it does seem that obese people are more sensitive to its effects.

How do we use this information to help us in our journey to better health and weight management??

1) Eat on a schedule – a good rule of thumb is to not go longer than 5 hours without eating. By eating on a schedule you can help yourself from becoming too hungry and eating too much.

2) SLOW DOWN! – It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal delivered that you have had enough. By slowing down you will allow yourself to tune in and get the “I’m full” signal.

3) Mixed meals – Eating foods that slow digestion can keep your Stomach from feeling the need to signal you need to eat again. Look for Protein/carbohydrate meal combos loaded with vegetables for a long lasting fill.

4) Omega 3’s – Eating foods high in omega 3 fatty acids can help by decreasing inflammation and making you more sensitive to the leptin your fat cells are secreting.

5) Get enough sleep – A large body of evidence has shown that there is a connection between sleep and hormone regulation. Aim for 7-8 hours of good sleep to keep hormones stable.

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