Anyone who has ever tried to lose a few pounds knows how difficult it is to eat a meal without going overboard. From food ads on billboards to cooking shows on television, we're inundated with images and messages that trigger our appetites. Luckily, there are a few ways to curb your food cravings.
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There's more to appetite than feeling peckish because you haven't eaten in a while. Registered Dietician Susan B. Dopart writes for Huffington Post that your appetite is controlled by three hormones — insulin, ghrelin and leptin. These hormones interact with each other and affect the brain.
Insulin manages the transfer of sugar from your bloodstream into your body's cells so that they can use it for energy. About one-third of the population is resistant to insulin, which causes their body to release an excess of it whenever they eat sugar and simple carbohydrates like white bread.
When you eat a ton of carbohydrates and the excess insulin it produces as a result doesn't transfer that sugar to your cells for energy, your body begins to crave more carbs. The result? Overeating.
Ghrelin is the hormone in your body that makes you feel hungry, while leptin makes you feel full, according to Dopart. Appetite suppressants must affect these hormones in some way in order to be effective.
Medicines and Appetite
Anti-obesity drugs have been plentiful over the years. Most were marginally effective: People lost about 3 percent of body weight for most of them and as much as 10 percent of body weight for some combinations. Unfortunately, most of these drugs were removed from the market because of serious side effects including cardiovascular problems such as irregular heart beat, stroke and pulmonary hypertension, as well as psychiatric reactions.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, five anti-obesity drugs are currently available. While they have side effects, notably gastrointestinal complaints, and fat-soluble vitamins are not as well absorbed while the medicine is being taken, they are about as effective as the other medications that have been discontinued.
Finally, an excuse to eat more dark chocolate. One study found that women who smelled and ate dark chocolate had smaller appetites because of a decrease in ghrelin.
Mindbodygreen also suggests that the appetite-suppressing effects of dark chocolate might be due to its bitter flavor. A study found that bitter compounds actually slowed digestion in pigs. Why does that matter? Well, slower digestion means that your bloodstream is also absorbing less sugar, preventing insulin overproduction.
Considerations and Warnings
None of the appetite suppressants that research has found to be effective are perfect. Nicotine is the most risky for the reasons detailed above. Drugs meant to control your appetite have side effects, require a prescription and may be expensive. Chocolate, while delicious, can also contain sugar and fat (defeating the purpose here).
If you feel you need to lose weight, the best plan is to consult with a qualified health care professional who can advise you of the choices that should be right for you.
- Huffington Post Health; Appetite Control: Understanding Your Hunger Hormones; Susan B. Dopart, M.S., R.D.; October 2010
- “Future Medicinal Chemistry”; Anti-obesity Drugs: Are They Worth it? Mark K. Huntington & Roger A. Shewmake; March 2011
- "Regulatory Peptides"; Appetite Suppression Through Smelling of Dark Chocolate Correlates With Changes in Ghrelin in Young Women; E.T.Massolt, P.M.van Haard, J.F. Rehfeld, E.F. Posthuma, E. van der Veer, D.H. Schweitzer; April 2010