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Ghrelin, the Hunger Hormone, in Dieting vs Surgery

ghrelin hunger hormoneBariatric surgery has shown encouragingly positive and sustainable weight loss success, which has prompted researchers to investigate just how exactly surgery works with the hormones that control appetite, according to a recent article published on MSNBC News.  Dr. Sunil Bhoyrul, expert weight loss surgeon at Olde Del Mar Surgical in La Jolla, California explains that “As a result of weight loss surgery, we finally are beginning to understand the physiology of weight loss better than we’ve ever understood it before. Patients can lose up to 60 to 80 percent of their excess weight in one to four years after surgery, and many have an easier time keeping it off than they did through dieting.”

As Dr. Bhoyrul points out, there is a big difference in sustained weight loss from dieting versus surgery, specifically relating to the gut hormone ghrelin. Research has shown that during dieting, ghrelin levels increase, making us feel hungry. Even if weight loss is achieved through a diet, the ghrelin levels stay elevated, and we still feel hungry even after eating. On the other hand, after gastric bypass surgery, ghrelin levels decrease significantly.

There’s much that’s still unknown about the stomach-brain connection, and scientists are looking further into the connection. “Unlike the drop in ghrelin seen after gastric bypass, those who undergo gastric banding experience a drop in their hunger, but not in ghrelin”, said Dr. Emma Patterson, Medical Director and bariatric surgeon at Oregon Weight Loss Surgery. This may be because ghrelin communicates with the brain differently after this surgery, Patterson said.

The hope of the researchers is that through understanding how exactly the surgery works, there may a way to create the positive results of the surgery, with a drug.

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