June 22, 2015

Is Ghrelin The Key To Hunger Suppression?

Ghrelin is a hormone produced in our bodies that primarily regulates the feeling of hunger. As the stomach is emptied, ghrelin is secreted. This secretion slows, and finally stops, as we get full. Ghrelin is secreted at its highest concentration from the fundus of the stomach – located in the upper, outer portion of the gastric pouch.

Although research into the exact causes and effects of ghrelin secretion is in its infancy, there is a definite correlation between its secretion and the feelings of hunger that we experience each day. This correlation may be part of the reason why a many patients feel fewer hunger pangs after the gastric sleeve procedure.

During the gastric sleeve, the fundus of the stomach (along with about 80% of the stomach pouch) is cut away from the rest of the functioning stomach and removed from the abdomen. This, in turn, eliminates the stomach’s ability to produce normal amounts of ghrelin. Logically, one would correlate removing the hunger hormone with hunger suppression. Incidentally, while much of the gastric pouch is cut away during the gastric bypass as well, it does not have the same hunger suppression effects. This is because the gastric bypass does not remove the cut away stomach from the abdomen – it simply stops food from entering.

While the evidence of ghrelin being related hunger suppression after gastric sleeve surgery is compelling, there is still a lot we don’t know about the hormone. For example, we don’t know why some patients do not have a measurable decrease in hunger after surgery while others do. The likely answer to this is that ghrelin is just one of the many causes of hunger – and ultimately each of our bodies react in a unique manner.

In the end, losing weight will require far more than simply removing the fundus of the stomach. It requires a commitment on behalf of the patient to change their lives through traditional diet and exercise with the understanding that bariatric surgery simply enhances that lifestyle change.

As with many new and exciting research angles in bariatric surgery, there is a lot more to be discovered. We will keep you posted as we learn more about ghrelin and its relationship to our feelings of hunger.

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