What triggers ghrelin release?

Watching food mukbang or videos of people eating in new eateries or even cooking one certainly makes us crave for food. Sometimes it goes beyond just wanting to eat it, you may even feel sudden hunger apart from salivating watching such videos. Feeling of hunger is not only here to make us suffer, but it acts as a reminder that you need to eat to keep the bodies fuelled and maintain energy levels so that your body can function well throughout the day. Have you ever wondered what has been responsible for this hunger sensation? You can certainly place this responsibility on ghrelin.

            Ghrelin (not gremlins for sure) is a hormone mainly produced by the stomach with small amounts coming from the small intestine, pancreas and brain. Nicknamed as the ‘hunger hormone’, ghrelin stimulates hunger, increases food intake and promotes fat storage. Apart from these functions, ghrelin plays a role in maintaining the blood glucose level and maintaining energy balance (energy homeostasis). Ghrelin also prevents muscle breakdown by releasing growth hormones from the pituitary gland in the brain to break down fat tissue and cause muscle to build-up. It also possesses the protective effect of protecting the heart.

       What triggers ghrelin release? It is triggered when the stomach is empty, making a person become hungry as it signals it is time to eat. Some studies state that those consuming food high in fructose, a type of sugar found naturally in fruits, vegetables and honey, may trigger ghrelin to increase. High levels of stress and chronic stress may also trigger ghrelin release to become high. Some evidence also shows cannabis triggers release of ghrelin. Generally, the level of ghrelin increases when a person is hungry. Rise of ghrelin in the blood happens right before a person eats and when a person fast, the timing of these rises is affected by the normal meal routine.

       After releasing ghrelin and rises of the hormone, certainly it is also reduced at some point. In general, ghrelin is reduced after a person eats. Studies show that certain food such as carbohydrates and protein limit production and release of ghrelin by slowing down releases of ghrelin. Hormones such as somatostatin also restrict ghrelin release.

       With this information in mind, some researchers try to apply this information in helping person body weight management. Gastric bypass surgery that reduces a person’s stomach size is considered to be the most effective treatment for severe obesity with life-threatening possibility. It is found that patients losing weight after such surgery have been discovered to have lower ghrelin levels than those losing weight by other ways such as exercises and diet. Hence, making gastric bypass surgery as the most successful way to help treat obesity.

       Although this kind of surgery seems promising for losing weight, it is not being proposed for everyone. Most recommendations stated that a person with BMI higher than 35 with one or more obesity related conditions such as diabetes, sleep apnoea and high blood pressure or those with BMI of 40 or higher is required to have surgery. Few reasons why not everyone can get this surgery is because of the cost and the nutrition deficiency that follows.

       Fortunately, there are other ways to decrease ghrelin levels in an attempt to lose weight. Aside from exercising and a diet high in protein including a healthy diet with balanced meals packed with fibres, a person should also limit stress by getting good sleep quality and practising yoga or meditation that could help decrease ghrelin levels. It is best to talk to a medical professional on the best and healthy way to lose weight as not everyone is able to do that due to their own health conditions.