More than a habit: The formerly obese have increased hunger hormones for two years after dramatic weight loss

Severely obese individuals have more hunger hormones for two years after dramatic weight loss, a study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism discovered. The study was carried out by a team of researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology who looked at the impact, both short- and long-term, of weight loss done through diet and exercise on the appetite of individuals with obesity.

In conducting the study, the research team assessed 35 severely obese adults who went through a weight loss plan that concentrated on diet and exercise for two years. The participants of the study spent several weeks in a wooded retreat where they were provided with dietary advice and exercise coaching.

The research team evaluated how hungry the participants were every six months from the start of the study to two years later. The team also assessed the participant’s hunger status three hours after each meal, how big their meals were, and how much food they planned to consume. In addition, the circulating hormone levels of the participants were examined in order to identify how they reacted to the idea of a meal or after just eating one. A year after, the participants came back to the retreat to learn how to maintain their weight loss.

The results revealed that after four weeks, the participants lost an average of 3.5 percent of their body weight. At the same time, their appetite-boosting hormone known as ghrelin rapidly increased, which is a result of their increased exercise, according to the researchers. However, the participants did not report an increased desire to eat, but instead felt fuller sooner when eating, regardless of the increasing appetite-boosting hormone levels.

At the first year of the program, the participants lost about 7.4 percent of their body weight. However, they also reported a greater desire to eat as well as decreased fullness when eating. After two years on the program, they had mainly lost weight, but still reported increasing levels of hunger, alongside decreased fullness after meals.

“Patients with severe obesity will, therefore, have to deal with increased hunger in the long term,” the researchers wrote.

Obesity worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), has almost tripled since 1975. In fact in 2016, over 1.9 billion adults were overweight, and more than 650 million of them were obese.

Foods that help in weight loss and satiate your hunger

The simplest way to reduce caloric intake without eating less is to follow a diet rich in fiber with good sources of lean protein. Here are five foods that help lose weight without making you hungry. (Related: Fiber helps control weight by releasing anti-appetite molecule acetate.)

  1. Pistachios – Pistachios are one of the lowest-calorie and lowest-fat nuts, which means that eating more of them is not a problem. Forty-eight pistachios is equivalent to a one-ounce serving.

  2. Non-starchy vegetables – Vegetables rich in fiber and water, such as cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, celery, broccoli, and cabbage, are naturally very low in calories. Moreover, fiber-rich foods make a person feel fuller.

  3. Calcium-rich cheese – Calcium in cheese can help in weight loss because it helps maintain muscle mass, which improves metabolism to aid in burning more calories.

  4. Raspberries – When you are craving something sweet, choose to eat raspberries instead of sugary foods. A cup of raspberries gives eight grams of satiating fiber and only contains 60 calories.

  5. Greek yogurt – Greek yogurt contains twice the protein of a regular yogurt and accounts for 30 percent of the daily calcium needs.

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