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What You Should Know About the Hormones that Regulate Hunger

What You Should Know About the Hormones that Regulate Hunger

Our body is a combination of various organs system, and these systems are well regulated to maintain balance in the internal environment in the body. To keep in check all the phenomena and balance, our body uses various mechanisms, one of which is the hormonal system. Hypothalamus regulates the secretion of hunger and satiety hormones. Hunger and satiety need a tightly regulated balance in our body because excess or lack of any of them can affect our body severely. In our body, the hormonal system is regulated by a feedback mechanism that involves the interaction of the gastrointestinal tract to the hypothalamus. 

Role of the hypothalamus

Hormones interact in specific regions of the hypothalamus to produce feelings of hunger and satiety. Energy homeostasis is regulated by ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is also called the hunger hormone it increases before a meal when the person is hungry. Leptin has a role in satiety and reduces hunger.  Hypothalamus coordinates the secretion of these hormones. The medial zone of the hypothalamus has nuclei that play a role in regulating the secretion of these hormones; these areas include the preoptic area, anterior or supraoptic region, the middle or tuberal region, and the posterior or mamillary region. 

 What is ghrelin? 

Ghrelin or the Hunger hormone is secreted mainly by the stomach, and it is secreted in small amounts by the pancreas and small intestine. It acts on the hypothalamus, increases appetite, food intake, and promotes fat storage. Its amount increases in the body before the meal or during fasting, and it is decreased by food intake. Ghrelin regulates the secretion of growth hormone and affects growth.


Motilin is a hormone that induces intestinal contractions that signal food intake to our brain.

What is leptin?

Leptin is a polypeptide cytokine, it’s also known as the hormone of satiety, and it is produced by the brain; it indicates the feeling of satiety.  When our body has enough fat stored in it, leptin is secreted. Leptin regulates hunger, insulin secretion, growth, stress, and energy metabolism. It helps us maintain our body weight.  Leptin acts via leptin receptors, and it has a STAT3 signaling mechanism.  Leptin has a major role in controlling obesity. It does so by decreasing appetite, increasing carbohydrate metabolism, decreasing fat synthesis, and stimulating lipolysis in fat cells.

Neuropeptide Gramma:

Neuropeptide Gramma is an amino acid chain produced by the brain to stimulate food intake. Its levels are regulated by leptin and ghrelin.

Agouti-related protein (AgRp):

The brain produces Agouti-related protein (AgRp) to stimulate food intake.

Glucagon-like peptide-1:

It is produced by our intestinal cells in response to food ingestion. It delays stomach emptying and produces a feeling of satiety, reducing food intake.


It’s a hormone produced in response to nutrients ingestion, particularly proteins and fats. It reduces food intake by stimulating the satiety centre and also causes contraction of the gall bladder that causes secretion of bile and other hormones. There is emulsification and metabolism of fats. 

Pancreatic peptide Y: 

It’s also released after food intake and produces satiety. It slows the movement of food through the digestive tract. 


Insulin is produced after food intake. It increases glucose utilization and regulates blood glucose levels. It does so by increasing carbohydrate metabolism, increased glycolysis, and decreased gluconeogenesis. 


It’s a hormone with appetite-suppressing effects; it opposes the appetite-inducing effects of ghrelin.

Leptin, ghrelin, and obesity

As discussed earlier, increased leptin gives us a feeling of satiety, stimulates lipolysis, and reduces lipogenesis. The decreased leptin levels lead to obesity because of enhanced fat generation and reduced-fat degradation. While increased levels of ghrelin increase hunger, reduce satiety, increase food intake, and ultimately lead to obesity. Moreover, excess leptin or impaired leptin receptors sensitivity also causes obesity.

How does sleep affect leptin and ghrelin levels?

Sleep affects leptin and ghrelin levels in our bodies. Lack of sleep leads to increased levels of ghrelin and reduced leptin levels. According to research in 2004, sleep duration of fewer than 7 hours causes increased ghrelin and decreased leptin levels. Reduced levels of leptin lead to obesity as there is increased fat deposition.  

How does sleep cause obesity?

Sleep disorders are one of the common problems nowadays. Because of changes in our lifestyle and habits, there is an increased incidence of sleep disorders. According to research, 57% of adults in the US of 40 and elders have sleep disorders. Lack of sleep affects our body adversely, and it also causes hormonal imbalance. Lack of sleep affects the neurohormonal feedback, and leptin and ghrelin levels in our body are affected. It increases ghrelin and reduces leptin in our body. Due to this, there is increased hunger, food intake, lipogenesis, and reduced lipolysis, which leads to fat deposition in our adipose tissues, and obesity occurs as a result. Sleep deprivation also leads to insulin resistance, in which our body produces normal insulin, but it can’t utilize insulin, leading to Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus NIDDM or Type 2 diabetes mellitus. There is increased appetite, decreased utilization, and weight gain.

Role of the pituitary gland

The pituitary gland is also called the master gland because it has a key role in the regulation of hormonal balance, and it also affects ghrelin levels. There are ghrelin-producing or GH secretagogue receptors (GHS-R) in the pituitary that secrete ghrelin. Moreover, it also regulates the growth hormone level in cooperation with leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin, along with leptin, provides calories required for growth hormone synthesis. Moreover, posterior pituitary hormones and vasoactive peptides also control hunger.

Chronic stress, hormonal imbalance, and obesity

Chronic stress alters hormones for appetite regulation increases food uptake and fat deposition. 

What are the other symptoms associated with hormonal weight gain?

Other symptoms associated with hormonal weight gain are: 

  • Striae 
  • Acne
  • Hirsutism 
  • Fatigue goiter
  • Moon face
  • Obesity 
  • Muscle weakness 

What are the major diseases caused by the imbalance of hunger and satiety hormones?

There is an increased risk of cardiovascular disorders,  inflammation, obesity, insulin resistance, and protein-energy wasting due to hormonal imbalance of hunger and satiety hormones.

How to regulate hormonal feedback?

Getting Started

Our hunger and satiety regulation center works on a neurohormonal feedback mechanism regulated by various hormones, including leptin, ghrelin, insulin, pancreatic peptide gamma, glucagon-like peptide-1, insulin, cholecystokinin, and many other hormones. Imbalance in this feedback loop leads to obesity and weight gain, which are major problems and cause many diseases nowadays. Our lifestyle, stress, and lack of proper sleep causes disturbance in hormonal balance, so the levels of leptin and ghrelin are affected, causing many diseases. 

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