Like your car, your body requires fuel (food) to keep its engine running. Hunger is the fuel gauge that lets you know when your tank is running on empty. If your hunger is food-related, learning the mechanism that triggers it enables you to control this function. Hunger is also a side effect of several medical conditions and medications.
The foods you eat affect the metabolic process of digestion and impose a significant impact upon hunger satisfaction (satiety). In addition to being nutritionally inferior to natural foods, processed foods accelerate the process of digestion because of their low fiber content. Foods digested too quickly result in the rapid return of hunger symptoms, according to the website, On Planet Earth. The higher fiber content in whole and natural foods slows the rate of digestion and provide bulk to leave you feeling fuller for longer periods.
According to “Biomarkers of satiation and satiety,” “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” June 2004, “… glucose and insulin in humans are mainly involved in satiety or meal initiation.” The types of food you eat not only supply fuel for your brain and energy for your body; they trigger the responses of satiety and hunger.
Glucose provides fuel for the brain and energy for your body. According to Caobisco, “a sustained blood glucose level induces satiety in humans…through slow release carbohydrates.” Fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain products provide you with the slow release, complex carbohydrates (sugars) that help to keep blood sugar levels stable. Foods containing simple carbohydrates (sugars) like processed foods, snacks, sugary soft drinks, candy and cake trigger a rapid rise in blood sugar followed by an equally quick drop in blood glucose levels. This initiates the hunger response, even though you have just eaten. Caobisco states protein also helps to maintain extended periods of hunger satisfaction.
Diabetes, type 1 and type 2, and diabetic hypoglycemia cause excessive hunger because of their effect on the insulin response. According to the American Heart Association, hypoglycemia, (including non-diabetic hypoglycemia), is a serious, sometimes fatal, condition causing symptoms that include excessive hunger. Graves’ disease is a thyroid condition that causes increased appetite, according to a June 2005 study by S. Röjdmark, et al., archived in PubMed. The study lists cortisone, steroids and antidepressants among the medications that cause symptoms of hunger.
A physician treats medical causes of hunger or increased appetite with specific dietary recommendations and other treatment modalities. Changes in diet should not be made without first consulting a healthcare provider, as they may have a negative affect upon existing medical problems.
- On Planet Earth.com: Processed Food
- "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition": Biomarkers of Satiation and Satiety; Cees de Graaf, et al.; June 2004
- Caobisco: Carbohydrates and Satiety
- American Heart Association: Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia
- PubMed.gov: "Endocrine"; Hunger-Satiety Signals in Patients with Graves' Thyrotoxicosis Before, During, and After Long-Term Pharmacological Treatment; S. Röjdmark, et. al; June 2005