In trials when administered to humans, Ghrelin increases food intake by up to 30% this is why understanding how and when it’s produced is key for weight management. It also has protective effects on the cardiovascular system and plays a role in insulin release. Ghrelin levels are constantly adjusted according to how much and when you have eaten. When you are hungry levels rise and immediately after eating, they reduce. How long they stay reduced for is dependent on what and how much you have eaten. Different nutrients slow down ghrelin release to varying degrees; carbohydrates and proteins restrict the production and release of ghrelin to a greater extent than fats. Again, this reinforces the point that it’s not just calories in and calories out – i.e. how much you eat, but the balance of nutrients and also when you eat that determine not just your weight, but also your health. Some interesting research at Yale university recently showed that our minds can also affect the amount of Ghrelin we produce. A group of 46 volunteers were invited in on two separate occasions; the first visit they were given a “sensible-shake” drink and told it was 140 Calories. Bloods were taken before and after the drink and participants were asked to record how full (satiated) they felt after consuming the shake, and how long that feeling lasted.
On the second visit they were presented with a Luxury “indulgence-shake” and told this contained 620 calories. The same measurements were taken. On each occasion the labels were clearly demonstrating a different composition not just in total energy, but also in fat and sugar. In reality the make-up of the drinks was exactly the same, with both shakes being 380 calories. What was interesting about the study was that the participants felt more satiated (full) after the “luxury Shake” and that this feeling of fullness lasted significantly longer than the brief sense of satiety after the “sensible-shake”, this was also represented in blood tests, meaning that the perceived value of the food had an immediate physiological effect on their appetite control mechanisms. Participants were also asked how “healthy” they perceived each drink to be. Not surprisingly the results showed the healthiest shake was the “sensible-shake”. One of the most significant findings of the study was the way ghrelin levels changed depending on the perceived content of the shake. After the “sensible-shake”, levels dipped only slightly, meaning participants did not feel fully satiated. However, when they drank the “indulgence-shake” Ghrelin levels dropped significantly, comparable to after a meal.
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