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Keeping Your Weight Stable

Our body functions tend to stay pretty consistent due to the homeostatic process which involves negative feedback loops. For example, if your body temperature is too high, a negative feedback loop will act to bring it back towards normal.

So, hunger is another example of a negative feedback loop. When we are hungry our stomachs secrete something called ghrelins (a ‘greedy’ hormone). This gives us appetite. When we become satiated, the hypothalamus part of our brains triggers leptin production from the fat cells and small bowel which tells us we are full. Interestingly the best weight loss surgery currently takes away or avoids part of the stomach which produces gherlins. The levels of these hormones can be subject to genetic variations which is implicated in causes of some obesity.

We like leptins. In addition to telling us we are full, they also reduce your adrenaline, heart rate and blood pressure so you feel the need to exercise to increase all these values.

Hopefully not to confuse you further…

The small bowel in addition produces another hormone called GLP-1 (this is stimulated by leptin) which in turn stimulates insulin on eating. Insulin allows cells including muscle and liver to take up glucose and store it as glycogen. GLP-1 also inhibits the production of the antagonist hormone to insulin known as glucagon which would otherwise cause glucose release into the bloodstream from the glycogen.

Some people do not produce enough insulin or have resistance to the effects of insulin (diabetics). GLP-1 analogues initially used to treat diabetes, are these days often known as weight loss injections (such as Ozempic). They increase the production of insulin and perhaps even generate new insulin-forming cells in the pancreas.

GLP-1 analogues also work centrally on the brain by telling the brain that we are full. This therefore reduces hunger and appetite.

Individuals who are resistant to the effects of leptin and also insulin, have hunger, obesity, reduced sympathetic output and therefore a reduced desire for exercise. Sugar (carbohydrates) intake is a major cause of leptin resistance.

Sleep is very important in promoting leptin formation and anything less than 6-8 hours reduces leptins and also increases ghrelins. Leptins are also increased by a healthy diet avoiding sugar.

Evidence shows that focused exercise involving the muscles like lifting weights as opposed to general cardiovascular exercise like running or cycling will best augment the weight loss associated with these hormonal mechanisms as there is increased deposit of glucose as glycogen in the muscles.

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