Diet

How Your Brain Tricks Your Hormones Into Feeling Full

A new study finds that fooling ghrelin is the key to losing weight

It's not just what we eat, but what we think we're eating that matters. At least according to new anecdotal research from Alia Crum, a clinical psychologist at Columbia Business School in New York.

Crum was interested in the way that a particular hormone called ghrelin operated in our bodies. Ghrelin's known as the hunger hormone, because it lets the body know when it's time to seek out food. When ghrelin levels in the stomach rise, it signals to the brain that it's time to eat food. When you satiate your ghrelin levels, your hunger drops and your metabolism kicks into gear to burn the calories that you've just consumed.

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To test her theory about the brain's role in ghrelin production, Crum had volunteers drink two drinks -- one was labeled as a dessert drink called Indulgence with around 620 per bottle, the other was labeled a low-cal drink called Sensishake, advertised as only having 140 calories, zero fat, and zero added sugar. The trick? Both beverages were actually made from the same vanilla milkshake mix containing around 300 calories per serving.

Amazingly, the people who believed they were drinking Indulgence produced way less ghrelin than those that produced the sensible shake. That's to say -- when people thought they were eating more calories, their ghrelin production responded in kind. The takeaway? If you believe you're eating a heavy, calorie-rich meal, your hormones will back that up and behave in kind. [NPR]

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