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Study: High-Fat Diets Less Effective at Keeping Hunger at Bay

Feb. 3, 2005 -- Want to fight those hunger pangs? A new study shows it may be best to forgo the fat and bring on the carbs and protein.

Researchers found a diet rich in either carbohydrates like grains or protein, such as meats and fish, suppressed the so-called hunger hormone, ghrelin, more effectively than a diet high in fat.

Ghrelin is a recently discovered hormone that is secreted by the stomach and small intestine that is thought to trigger hunger and send a message to the brain to bring on the food. Circulating levels of ghrelin in the body rise just before meals and fall after eating, suggesting that the hormone plays a role in mealtime hunger and initiating food intake.

Controlling the Hunger Hormone

In this study, published in the February issue of Endocrinology, researchers tested the effects of carbohydrates, protein, and fat on ghrelin levels in mice.

The mice were given an infusion of each of the three substances in their small intestines, and then researchers measured grehlin levels at regular intervals up to five hours later.

The study showed that the protein and carbohydrate infusions suppressed ghrelin faster and more effectively than the fat infusion. In particular, the protein and carbohydrates reduced ghrelin levels by 70% compared with the 50% reduction found with fat.

Researchers say these results suggest that high-fat diets may be more likely to promote weight gain because they do not keep hunger at bay as effectively as diets rich in carbohydrates or proteins.

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