Fasting ‘hunger Hormone’ Levels Increased by a Healthy Diet May Help Heart Health and Metabolism

According to research published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, fasting levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin recover after weight reduction and can help decrease abdominal fat and enhance insulin sensitivity.

Ghrelin is an appetite-stimulating hormone produced by the stomach. Ghrelin levels rise while a person is asleep during an overnight fast. When a person eats a meal, his or her levels drop.

Dieting causes an increase in fasting ghrelin levels, which is linked to abdominal visceral fat reduction and improved insulin sensitivity, according to the findings of an 18-month clinical experiment. This shows that those who have greater fasting ghrelin levels after losing weight are less likely to acquire diabetes or other metabolic illnesses.

The findings suggest fasting ghrelin levels may serve as a valuable indicator of cardiometabolic health following weight loss.

Iris Shai

When compared to participants who followed a more traditional Mediterranean diet or a healthy balanced diet, those who followed the green-Mediterranean diet, which included a leafy vegetable called Mankai and green tea and omitted red meat, had a two-fold higher elevation in fasting ghrelin levels, suggesting that this approach may have additional cardiometabolic benefits.

“The findings suggest fasting ghrelin levels may serve as a valuable indicator of cardiometabolic health following weight loss,” said the study’s senior author, Iris Shai of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Mass.

In the DIRECT PLUS study, Shai and her colleagues proposed the green-MED diet as an enhanced version of the healthy MED diet. Fasting ghrelin levels were measured in 294 patients over the course of 18 months in this research investigation.

Participants with abdominal obesity or dyslipidemia, a condition characterized by abnormally elevated cholesterol or fats in the blood, were randomized to one of three diets: following healthy dietary guidelines, the Mediterranean diet, or a green version of the Mediterranean diet that was protein plant-based and free of red meat. All of the participants, who were chosen from a remote office, were given supervised meals, workout instructions, and gym memberships.

Despite identical calorie restriction and weight reduction, people who followed a green Mediterranean diet, which includes daily consumption of green tea and a green leafy vegetable called Mankai, had twice as high fasting ghrelin levels as those who followed a typical Mediterranean diet.

“The elevation in fasting ghrelin levels might help to explain why the green Mediterranean diet optimized the microbiome, reduced liver fat and improved cardiometabolic health more than the other diets in our study,” Shai said.

“The results of our study suggest that fasting ghrelin is an essential hormonal factor in the diet-associated recovery of sensitivity to insulin and visceral adiposity regression, or reduction in belly fat,” said the first author of the paper, Gal Tsaban, a researcher and cardiologist of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center, both in Beer-Sheva, Israel.

“The varied, diet-specific response in fasting ghrelin levels rise might point to another mechanism by which alternative dietary regimens, such as the green Mediterranean diet, can lower cardiometabolic risk.”

Other authors of the study include: Anat Yaskolka Meir, Hila Zelicha, Ehud Rinott, Alon Kaplan, and Amos Katz of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Aryeh Shalev of Soroka University Medical Center; Dov Brikner of the Nuclear Research Center Negev in Dimona, Israel; Matthias Blüher, Uta Ceglarek and Michael Stumvoll of the University of Leipzig in Leipzig, Germany; and Meir J. Stampfer of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass.

The study was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), the Israeli Ministry of Health, the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology, and the California Walnut Commission.

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