In a new study from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Harvard, researchers found fasting levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin rebound after weight loss and can help reduce belly fat and improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
Ghrelin is a stomach-derived hormone that stimulates appetite. Ghrelin levels rise during overnight fasting when a person is sleeping. The levels fall after an individual eats a meal.
The study found that dieting induces an elevation in fasting levels of ghrelin and that elevation of fasting ghrelin is associated with abdominal visceral fat loss and improving insulin sensitivity.
This suggests individuals who have higher levels of fasting ghrelin following weight loss face decreased risk of developing diabetes or other metabolic diseases.
In the study, the team examined fasting ghrelin levels in 294 participants over 18 months.
Participants with either abdominal obesity or dyslipidemia—a condition with 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.
The team showed that people who followed the green-Mediterranean diet that included a leafy vegetable called Mankai and green tea and omitted red meat had a two-fold greater elevation in fasting ghrelin levels compared with participants who followed a more traditional Mediterranean diet or a healthy balanced diet.
The findings suggest fasting ghrelin levels may serve as a valuable indicator of cardiometabolic health following weight loss.
The team says 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 the study.
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The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. One author of the study is Iris Shai.
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