Obesity, unlike other health conditions, can only be overcome with lifestyle changes that are tough to sustain, especially when feelings of hunger heighten after losing weight.

Unfortunately, a recent study has found that people who were formerly obese will have to deal with increased hunger throughout their lifetime and it's something that can't be considered as "all in the head" as there are physical mechanisms at play.

A team from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology uncovered the specific cause of this problem. They observed the participants of a comprehensive weight loss program, which lasted for two years.

By the end of the program, results published on Jan. 23 in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism shows that all 34 participants lost a substantial amount of weight but felt even more hungry than when they first entered the program.

The team of scientists believes that such is caused by an imbalance of the hunger hormone after losing lots of weight and the body's natural ability to conserve.

Hunger Hormones And The Body's Natural Response For Survival

At the beginning of the program, its participants weighed an average of 125 kilograms. They were then admitted to a facility that specializes in obesity.

Its gold standard treatment involves regular exercise and tests, education on proper nutrition, and counseling with certified psychologists. This program lasted for three weeks and participants were made to join every six months.

The most significant results were produced during the first three weeks, with participants losing an impressive five kilograms on average. After two years, however, an average loss of only 11 kilograms was recorded, proving that the participants struggled to maintain their new weight because of heightened hunger.

Two physical causes of such hungriness were identified. First, weight loss has been determined to stimulate the excessive production of ghrelin inside the stomach. This is the hormone that regulates a person's feeling of hunger.

Catia Martins, a coauthor of the study and associate professor at NTNU, explains all people have the hormone. However, for an individual who has been obese and then lost a substantial amount of weight, the ghrelin level increases.

Second, the human body's natural response to weight loss is conservation. Because it has become used to producing a large amount of energy to function throughout obesity, it sees weight loss as a threat and goes into survival mode.

Various systems are alerted to try and get that weight back. Basically, these feelings of hunger are the body's way of saving itself.

Obesity Should Be Treated Like A Chronic Disease

The bad news about higher levels of ghrelin is that it would no longer go down. The Norwegian study shows that it has remained high among participants during the entire study period. This means increased hunger is something that formerly obese people would have to manage their entire life.

Obesity should be treated like every other chronic disease, stresses Martins in a report. A patient needs plenty of help and strict follow-ups from physicians for treatment to be successful.

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