Your hunger and appetite are subject to control by many complex factors. Scientists have learned a lot about how the appetite mechanism works. This article provides general information about what affects appetite. Let’s take a look at several factors that are now known to influence appetite.
1. The amount of sleep you get
Many people don’t realise that their sleepless nights may also be affecting the food choices they make during the day. How can a lack of sleep impact our appetite? Firstly, people who don’t get enough sleep tend to feel more irritable, are unable to concentrate as normal and feel like they need to boost their energy levels via food, to get through he day. We also tend to be more lenient with ourselves and allow those poorer choices. This often results in more food during the day and foods/ drinks that are higher in added sugars and fats. Unfortunately those sugary choices will give you a quick but short lasting boost of energy.
From a more scientific point of view, sleeplessness alters our appetite controlling hormones – leptin and ghrelin….
2. Hormones – leptin and ghrelin
Leptin is the hormone that notifies our brain when we have had an adequate amount to eat and are satisfied. Ghrelin has the opposite role and tells our body when it is hungry. So when these hormones are thrown off balance (as with sleep deprivation) we see changes to our appetite. A sleepless night will result in an increase in ghrelin and decrease in leptin which means we feel hungrier during the day and are less satisfied with the food that we do eat. This can influence weight control if you often have a poor night sleep.
3. The balance of your meals
Many people ‘cut out carbs’ after a certain time of day or they just neglect them at dinner. However, the balance of your meal is also important for controlling appetite and also ensuring nutritional adequacy. If we forgo carbohydrates at dinner, we often don’t feel as satisfied for as long and any people then go hunting for after dinner snacks or sweets. A small amount of carbohydrate with your meal will not only be more satisfying but will also ensure your blood sugar levels are more balanced across the day – this is good for everyone, not just people with diabetes. Choose good quality carbohydrates like wholegrain breads and cereals.
4. The glycaemic index of your diet
This ties in with the above point. Low GI foods help to keep us fuller for longer whereas high GI foods don’t provide the same duration of satiety. This is why it’s best to choose low GI snacks and meals to prevent getting hungry earlier. Most fruit, vegetables and dairy are low GI but you will need to be careful with breads and cereals. Choosing the least processed grain and cereal products with lots of grains is the best way to go. Low glycaemic index foods also help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
5. Emotions and lifestyle
Unfortunately emotions play a big part in our appetite these days. Whilst they don’t physically make us hungrier, they often make us eat larger quantities of food than we need and also choose poorer quality of food e.g. chocolates. This can be fuelled by boredom, grazing during office work or feelings of depression. Stress can also alter our hormones and increase hunger for energy dense foods as well as later the way fat it stored – this is thanks to cortisol.
Unfortunately certain types of medication can increase hunger as well which makes food a real struggle. Often this leads to weight gain due to constant urges to eat more than the individuals energy requirements.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about appetite control and healthy eating, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!
For more information
For more information about leptin, ghrelin and the role of sleep in weight management click here.