It's Not Your Imagination: You're Hungrier After Losing Weight

From Drugs.com - February 14, 2018

It's Not Your Imagination: You are Hungrier After Losing Weight

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 14, 2018 -- If you find yourself famished after you have managed to diet away a sizable number of pounds, you are not alone.

Cutting back on calorie consumption is likely to spark changes that permanently boost appetite among obese men and women, Norwegian researchers report.

Blame it on the hunger hormone ghrelin, which spikes when you suddenly lower your food intake. It's a phenomenon that harkens back to when early humans had to survive bouts of famine, the researchers said.

Now, that ancestral hormonal swing may undermine long-term efforts to keep the weight off, judging by what happened to 35 morbidly obese patients as they spent two years on a highly structured weight-loss program.

"It is extremely important that both patients with obesity and health professionals working with them are aware of the expected increase in hunger with weight loss," said study author Catia Martins. "This can explain why it is so difficult, at least for some individuals with obesity, to comply with energy-restricted diets, and why so many give up."

Martins is an associate professor with the faculty of medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The statistics can be disheartening: The researchers noted that only 1 in 5 obese dieters is able to keep off the weight he or she sheds.

The study focused on 22 women and 13 men in Norway who were about 275 pounds, on average, and characterized as "severely obese," before embarking on a highly supportive weight-loss program.

First, all underwent a three-week inpatient program that offered nutritional education, psychological counseling and routine exercise activities. Four more three-week sessions were completed over the course of the program.

Throughout, all participants were placed on a "moderately restricted" diet. This meant consuming about 500 calories per day less than otherwise needed to maintain a status quo weight. Food breakdown was set at 50 percent carbs, 30 percent fat and 20 percent protein.

On average, the patients lost about 11 pounds within the first three weeks of the program, and an average of 24 pounds by the two-year mark.

But at both the one and two-year marks all the patients also reported feeling increasing hunger following their weight loss.

Why? On the one hand, as weight went down, ghrelin levels went up and stayed up. On the other, as the participants' weight dropped their energy needs for basic functions -- such as breathing, sleeping, walking and eating -- also dropped.


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