Lost all those kilos but struggling to keep the weight off? You could blame it on the hormones. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone that tricks the body into believing that it needs to eat more.
According to Catia Martins, Associate Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), “Everyone has this hormone, but if you’ve been overweight and then lose weight, the hormone level increases.” This also explains why most obese people are successful in losing weight but only 20 per cent are able to maintain the new lower weight.
The study revealed that when we lose weight, the stomach releases the hormone ghrelin in even larger amounts, which makes us feel hungry.
Catia Martins revealed that the amount of ghrelin produced by the stomach remains high and does not adjust over time. This means that while people who have been overweight will have to deal with increased hunger pangs for the rest of their lives, those who weigh less will require less energy to maintain their lighter bodies. Yet they will also suffer from hunger pangs, because the body is trying to gain the old weight back.
For the study, patients participated in an extensive two year weight loss programme and underwent examination of their appetite. Initially, the patients weighed 125 kg (on an average) and lost 11 kg (on an average) when the programme ended. Only two out of ten were able to maintain their new weight after two years.
“People can lose motivation and have trouble following the diet and exercise advice. All of this makes it difficult to maintain the new lower weight,” Martins noted.
“Obesity is a daily struggle for the rest of one’s life. We have to stop treating it as a short-term illness by giving patients some support and help, and then just letting them fend for themselves.”
The research, published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism suggested that it is important to know which physiological mechanisms resist weight loss.