Can your own hormones be responsible for all the bad food choices you make? They can according to Dr. Tony Goldstone of Imperial College of London and Hammersmith Hospital.
Dr. Tony Goldstone is an Oxford-trained scientist who has spent his career studying how hormones effect diet.
His new breakthrough comes from understanding how the hormone ghrelin affects appetite and influences the food choices you make at the dinner table.
He says ghrelin influences your brain and activates its "reward centers." That literally makes you crave high-calorie foods over healthy ones.
Hormones Activate Hunger
Dr. Goldstone and his team studied 18 healthy men and women, all in their early 20s.
Over a series of tests, he injected half with saline... and the other half with ghrelin.
He then showed them pictures of high - or low-calorie foods. Afterwards, he asked them to rate the appeal of the foods by giving each picture a score of one to five.
High-calorie options included chocolate, pizza, and burgers. Low-calorie foods included fish, vegetables, and salads. But he didn't rely on their written responses or scores... he also confirmed them using an MRI to measure and record their brain activity.
In every case, people injected with ghrelin had a much greater response to high-calorie foods. The increase was measured against the placebo group and there was a dramatic difference in every person. Every time, ghrelin increased a person's desire for "bad" calories.
Dr. Goldstone then switched the groups. Those who were given saline injections were given ghrelin. And vice versa. He then repeated the experiment to ensure his findings were accurate.
His findings are being embraced by the scientific community. Dr. Daniel Bessesen of the University of Colorado, Denver, says this research shows that "ghrelin turns up the attractiveness of food."
But this shouldn't be viewed as bad news.
''The message doesn't have to be hopeless," says Dr. Bessesen. Instead, it's the key to fighting fat.
He says this knowledge explains why you're attracted to bad foods. And with that knowledge, you can control your bad food impulses at the hormonal level. That's because there are simple, natural ways to control ghrelin.
Combat Bad Food Impulses
There is one simple solution to balance ghrelin. You simply have to eat more.
This advice may sound contrarian but it's critical to controlling ghrelin production.
You simply have to keep your appetite sated. If you're not hungry then ghrelin "hibernates."
So you need to select foods that keep your hunger at bay. And you can do that by eating healthy meals and snacks throughout the day.
Several studies show that protein keeps ghrelin levels low better than any other food. That's because it digests slowly, keeping your hunger satisfied longer. So you should aim to increase your protein intake. Opt for grass-fed beef over grain-fed beef; cage-free eggs; free-range fowl; and cold water, fresh caught fish.
Walnuts and almonds make for a great snack. And they're loaded with protein and vital nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids.
A second solution also keeps ghrelin in check. It's linked to how much water you drink.
That's because ghrelin regulates thirst. So if you drink plenty of water, you satisfy ghrelin and lower its production.
Many say you should try to drink an eight-ounce glass of water 15 minutes before dinner... because that lowers ghrelin levels and reduces appetite. This is bad advice as it could dilute your digestive juices and create problems with digesting and assimilating nutrient.
Drinking your water throughout the day, eating a quality meal 3x a day with plenty of fat will reduce your body's need for ghrelin.