You loosened a belt buckle just so you could get another bite of your favorite dessert. Did you need it? Did you want it? Or did you just have to have it? You knew you were full before you took the bite. You knew you shouldn't have even gotten desert but that cheesecake looked too good to resist. Then you wondered why you even did that. How many times has this happened to you?
Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone”. It's known to stimulate your appetite when you’re hungry or in need of calories. It will also make you want to eat just because the food in front of you looks especially good.
Ghrelin is secreted by your stomach. From there it sends a message to receptors in your brain. It tells them to be more receptive to food’s visual cues. Your brain responds by sending back a reply to your belly saying, “Hey, that looks delicious" or "Let’s eat it!” For many people, hungry or not, that message is just too hard to resist.
Grehlin increases specific rewarding aspects of eating. There's some evidence linking grehlin levels with the pleasurable feelings that someone would get from alcohol, nicotine or cocaine.
People with anorexia, loss of appetite due to physical illness, or who are fasting or losing weight by dieting, have especially high levels of ghrelin circulating in their bloodstreams. It makes sense if you think about it. Because these are conditions where your body is fearing starvation. But we are armed with natural survival tools and your body will tell you that it wants you to eat. People who are obese and those who have had gastric by-pass surgery are found to have lower circulating levels of ghrelin. That is why they eat considerably less than what they were accustomed to and eventually lose a considerable amount of body weight from being in such a deficit.
The real job of this hormone is to work with other hormones to correct appetite and energy imbalances, and help you maintain a consistent weight.
This is why you are hungrier when you don't get enough sleep. It also explains why there is always more room for dessert. These intricate hormones acting together is also why your body always seems to work against you in your valiant weight loss efforts.
Grehlin is so powerful that it is stimulated by the mere sight of food. That is why fast food advertising is so appealing.
So the next time you reach for the dessert menu, stop and think. When your brain is telling you to get that special desert ask yourself if it is really you wanting the dessert or just ghrelin making you think that you do.