Tips to Regulate Hunger and Satiety

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Kelsey Schaefer |

Ever heard the old adage about there being a difference between genuine hunger vs. just wanting to eat?

Appetite can be described as the drive to eat. Feeling satisfied by eating has two distinct descriptors: Satiation and satiety.

Satiation = the set of processes that signal the body to stop eating

Ex: "I've had enough."

Satiety = is the suppression of hunger and a maintained inhibition to eat for a period following the consumption of food.

Ex: "I'm not hungry yet—I'm still full from lunch."

The body has different mechanisms for regulating appetite and for achieving satiation and satiety, which, when used correctly, have a significant impact on both energy intake and ensuring we're getting enough nutrients.

Some research shows that even a small daily excess of calories – as much as 50kcal per day – can have a significant cumulative impact over the course of months and years. This is the equivalent of about one small biscuit every day. Any adjustments or deviations in the regulatory processes that govern appetite have a significant impact on body weight and adipose tissue regulation.

The reason for craving a particular food or flavour is different from genuine hunger.

In general, most humans possess a strong liking for the taste and texture of foods, particularly aspects like sweetness or crunch (we'd bet that some of your favourite junk foods are either sweet, crunchy, or both!)

The need for energy is often cited as one of the main reasons why we get hungry, yet some experts say that diets with a low energy density are associated with higher levels of satiety.

Simply put: a diet that is low in high-calorie foods is actually more likely to keep you feeling satisfied, over a diet that is full of high-calorie meals.

Let's break this down more.

Clearly, a need for energy cannot be the only stimulus of appetite and hunger. This could be related to satiety signals, such as chewing and food volume in the stomach. Stomach expansion is one signal that many people use to stop eating—and low energy-dense foods tend to contain a lot of fibre and water, which empty from the stomach more slowly and can lead to a sustained sense of fullness.

Glucose also tends to be released into the bloodstream more slowly and steadily from these foods compared to processed food options. Since low blood glucose can stimulate hunger, this sustained sugar release can stave off appetite.

To break it down even further...

A key hormone in appetite mechanics is called ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hormone primarily meant to regulate appetite. It is released from the stomach and circulates in the bloodstream, affecting regions of the hypothalamus, especially the arcuate nucleus and the brain stem. Ghrelin levels rise and fall cyclically throughout a normal day—increasing after eating and then falling immediately after a meal has been ingested. Ghrelin also facilitates the sensations of hunger and fullness, and it promotes fat storage.

A person needs ghrelin in their body to maintain and regulate some vital bodily functions. However, as ghrelin plays a key role in hunger and satiety, reducing levels of it may cause people to have less appetite and, as a result, lose weight.

So, let's get to some quick tips you can use to achieve this:

  1. Consume meals high in protein—aiming for 0.3 x your bodyweight in KG per meal)
  2. Exercise—2018 review found that intense aerobic exercise may reduce levels of ghrelin.
  3. Reduce stress—Many people know the feeling of reaching for a snack, and sometimes overeating, when they've had a stressful day. Try to be mindful of when you're actually hungry vs when you're just eating for comfort.

Remember, you know your body better than anyone. Take these tips on regulating hunger and satiety and see which ones work for your lifestyle!