The Hypothalamus & Weight Loss
While scientists work to solve the complete puzzle, dieters may benefit from what is currently known. Hypothalamus aside, let's review what is common knowledge in regards to weight gain in simple terms:
- We know that too much food equals weight gain.
- We know that too little exercise can also lead to weight gain when we exceed our daily energy (food) requirements.
- We know that when we're hungry, we receive a signal from the body in the form of a growl. The hungrier we are, the bigger the growl.
- We know that when we're trying to lose weight, even a kitten-sized growl feels like a lion-sized growl.
What is responsible for creating that growl? The old hypothalamus is right in the middle of things.
In fact, the hypothalamus is so multi-tasked that it is often referred to as the Master Brain as well as the Brain of the Brain. It knows when the body requires water, it spurs into action when our blood sugar levels fall and it can even have a big impact on how we feel about the foods and fluids that we ingest - from the way they taste to their level of satisfaction.
Before we dive off into the scientific's of the hypothalamus, you can use the information above to assist you while dieting, as well as during the weight maintenance phase.
The next time that you hear your tummy growl (the hypothalamus telling you that the body needs fuel), think about what you want to refuel your body with.
The following tips may be of help in creating the wisest choices:
- Fiber filled foods require a longer processing time by the body thus taming the appetite for longer periods of time. Good choices that fall within this category include: apples with the peel left on, oatmeal and hot-air popcorn.
- Sugar filled foods are quickly processed by the body and when unaccompanied by fat, the appetite will swiftly resurface. When you're craving a sugary food, opt for foods that are pumped with nutritional values - such as dried fruits.
- When your body craves fluids, it's impossible to beat H2O.
- Eat slowly as it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register that the tummy is full (more on this below).
Located beneath the thalamus region of the brain, the cherry-sized hypothalamus is responsible for regulating the metabolic process (among a plethora of other functions).
The hypothalamus contains several groups of nerve cells which have the ability to impact emotions, regulate body temperature, motivate personal desires behavior as well as control blood pressure- in addition to influencing an army of other body functions as referenced above.
The hypothalamus contains a leptin-sensitive neutral network which works to regulate body weight and is highly effective in assuring that the body is supplied with the levels of energy necessary for survival.
Leptin (a hormone) receptors are also located in several other areas within the body, including: taste receptor cells, nucleus accumbens, the thalamus and the caudal brainstem.
A couple of notes regarding leptin:
- Several new's agencies have reported that the hormone leptin found in mother's milk might be a key factor in body weight control.
- At one point, leptin treatments were hoped to be a key to preventing or reversing obesity but much controversy exists.
The hypothalamus is also involved in signaling when the tummy is full, but the time it takes from fork-to-mouth to feeling full takes about 20 minutes for most individuals.
Many diet supplements focus on shortening this span to target weight loss. For example, some hoodia gordonii suppliers claim that the dietary supplement is so powerful that it fools the brain into believing it is full prior to eating. No 20 minute wait.
the hypothalamus controls hunger;
the hypothalamus controls thirst;
levels of satiety (feeling of fullness) are also controlled by the hypothalamus
the hypothalamus in involved in salt cravings (when sodium levels are too high within the body, the hypothalamus sends a signal to drink fluids);
fluid & electrolyte balance are control by the hypothalamus;
body weight is controlled by the hypothalamus.
light, including length of day
steroids, including corticosteroids
blood-borne stimuli such as insulin
invading microorganisms such as occur during illness
Internal sense organs inform the hypothalamus of glucose levels in the blood, along with information concerning the body's current water content. When these levels become too low, the hypothalamus stimulates our appetite so that we desire food and/or drink.
These food-pattern disturbances are triggered by a disorder within the hypothalamus which typically occurs via brain hemorrhage within the hypothalamic region.
Pituitary tumors may also cause a disorder to occur within the hypothalamus, particularly as they expand. Other situations which can make the hypothalamus malfunction to a lesser degree include: drugs and substance withdrawal.
When a disturbance within the hypothalamus occurs, other disturbances within the body may occur along with the shift in eating patterns. The individual may experience a disturbance in body temperature as well as increased OR decreased needs for sleep.
When stimulation of the extreme lateral area of the hypothalamus occurs, the result is a desire to consume more food. When stimulation of the hypothalamus occurs by way of bilateral lesion, an individual may be left with no desire to eat.
Only time will tell if scientists are able to break the code when it comes to solving issues surrounding weight gain and obesity. Until then, eat and drink wisely, get those all-important 40 winks along with a healthy burst of activity.
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