Many people who have lost a substantial amount of fat, have a hard time maintaining their new body weight and quickly regain it in a matter of months, sometimes weeks. So, why it is so hard to keep it off? The main culprit is the hormone in charge of controlling hunger, ghrelin. It is pretty ironic in some sense. Even when someone who’s overweight loses a relatively great amount of weight through a dietary and training regimen, their hunger levels increase. And they stay that way.
According to one study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, subjects in a weight-loss program which lasted for two years reported that they were a lot hungrier at the end of the study after they lost all that weight. What’s worse, their appetites didn’t show any signs of decreasing or returning to normal. This increase in hunger levels might be one of the reasons why only 2 of the 10 subjects were able to maintain a healthy weight after the study finished.
It’s been estimated that approximately 36% of the adults in the U.S. are overweight/obese, which is defined as having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30+. Obesity is a big problem in all developed nations, even such places as Norway, which has an adult obesity rate of 25%. Being obese has been linked to having a higher risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some types of cancers.
In a study made in Norway, which consisted of 35 participants, both men, and women, with an average weight of 280lbs (127kg), they were instructed to follow a strict weight-loss regimen which included three-week stints at a special facility every 6 months for 2 years. By the time the study ended, they had lost an average of 25lbs (11kg) each. However, at each phase of the study, the scientists asked them about their hunger levels. It was found that their subjective feeling of hunger increased and stayed high during the entire two-year study, and what’s more, when their blood was examined it was found that ghrelin levels were also significantly increased.
Every human has this hormone released in their body, however, if you’ve been overweight and then you lost a significant amount of weight, ghrelin levels increase. This is how it works: the stomach releases ghrelin as a signal to the brain that it’s empty and it’s time to eat. Experts think that ghrelin levels remain high because after a long period of time the body gets accustomed to carrying a lot of fat and enters into panic mode when the excess weight is decreased. So, looking at it from an evolutionary perspective, and taking into consideration that all your primal brain cares about is surviving, it’s hastily trying to get the weight back, to ensure your survival.
This is why some experts believe that obesity needs to treated like any other chronic disease, such as diabetes. Obesity, for some people, can be a daily struggle for the rest of their lives. That’s why it should not be treated as an illness which can be cured in a relatively short amount of time. It is a long-term process whereby the patients are given support and help, all the while teaching them how to lead a healthy lifestyle which would prevent them from reverting back to their unhealthy habits and weight.
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