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The Hypothalamus Gland & Weight Loss

By Jackie Lohrey ; Updated July 18, 2017

For many, the determining factor in a successful weight loss program is appetite control. Common sense and willpower can become irrelevant when hunger pangs call for your attention. Although a reduced calorie diet may be what triggers feelings of hunger, the hypothalamus gland in your brain is responsible for their creation. While the hypothalamus gland is responsible for a great many tasks, a task of major importance is hunger and appetite control.

Functional Overview

A structure within your hypothalamus called the arcuate nucleus controls the front section of the pituitary gland and other body organs by way of the vagus nerve. Its main function is to regulate your appetite by creating a balance between food intake and energy requirements. To accomplish this, MedBio.info describes the arcuate nucleus as a sensory device, working to detect blood fat and glucose levels as well levels of the hormones insulin, leptin, ghrelin and peptide YY, also called PYY. It then uses this information to coordinate metabolism within your liver, kidneys, intestines and fat tissue.

Appetite Regulation

MedBio.info identifies two classes of nerve cells within the arcuate nucleus that define the process of appetite regulation and metabolism. The first class includes appetite stimulating and inhibiting primary neurons. The sensory information these nerve cells receive stimulates one or the other to send instructions to secondary neurons, whose role is to synchronize and coordinate functions such as metabolism. Secondary neurons accomplish this task by sending signals to body organs via the vagus nerve.

The Role of Hormones

Hormones are the main source of sensory information for the arcuate nucleus. As such, EatingDisordersHelpGuide.com notes their effect can be to either stimulate or inhibit your appetite. Ghrelin is an appetite-stimulating hormone, produced from within your stomach and intestines only when your stomach is empty. PYY stimulates appetite-inhibiting primary neurons by signaling the presence of fats and carbohydrates in your small intestine and colon.

Insulin affects appetite both directly and indirectly. Directly, insulin stimulates appetite-inhibiting primary neurons and indirectly, insulin regulates blood glucose levels, which in turn send information that stimulates either appetite stimulating or inhibiting primary neurons. Leptin, a hormone produced in fat tissue, also stimulates appetite-inhibiting primary neurons.

Weight Loss Solutions

There may be a way you can partially control the information your brain receives and manage feelings of hunger as you work on losing weight. David R. Broom and others published results of a study in November 2008 in the “American Journal of Physiology” in which they state that both aerobic exercise and resistance training reduce levels of the appetite stimulating hormones ghrelin and PPY. Both aerobic exercise and resistance training can reduce ghrelin levels and aerobic exercise alone reduces PPY. Although the group states further research is necessary, especially regarding how resistance training affects appetite, the affect aerobic exercise has appears to last for up to two days.

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