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Curbing hunger naturally

Being able to curb your appetite allows you to get into better eating habits and avoid putting on weight. Gilles Mithieux, director of the research unit ‘Nutrition and the brain’, guides us on how to choose natural and healthy curbs for hunger.

Curbing hunger naturally
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The best way to curb your appetite is not by using chemical appetite suppressants or dietary supplements designed to 'artificially' reduce your appetite. Above all, the best way to curb your appetite is to eat the types of food, which thanks to their natural nutritional values, encourage the feeling of being full.

Gilles Mithieux explains how we can reduce the feeling of hunger in a healthy way in order to eat without bingeing.

What control mechanisms does the body use to stop us feeling hungry?

Gilles Mithieux, director of the research unit ‘Nutrition and the brain’ founded jointly by Inserm and Lyon University: There are two different control mechanisms likely to satisfy hunger, the mechanism of having enough and the information that you feel satiated.

  • The mechanism of having enough is based on reflexive sensations that inform the brain that you are ‘full’. Two signals work to relay this message: the distension of the stomach and the secretion of hormones (cholecystokinin and GLP1). It’s a quick mechanism and takes only an hour to an hour and a half. For example, after a particularly rich meal, the feeling of being too full doesn’t arrive straight away but about half an hour later.
  • The feeling of being satiated, when you aren’t feeling hungry anymore, is not an instantaneous phenomenon; it is only produced some time after eating, in order to prevent hunger between meals. In this case, we don’t really know yet what mechanisms are in place to bring this about.

Can certain diet regimes have more impact on when we feel satiated?

Gilles Mithieux: Since a study published in 2005 we have demonstrated that in the long term, diets rich in protein modify the metabolism in the intestines to induce the neoglucogenese gene (which allows organs to generate glucose from proteins).

This means that around 6 hours after a meal rich in proteins, glucose is ‘released’ in the intestines as though it has just been ingested. On top of this, this glucose is detected in the portal vein and a message is sent to the brain that cuts short the sensation of hunger.

So if you consume high protein meals regularly, can this lead to a long-lasting curbing effect on appetite?

Gilles Mithieux: We conducted experiments using mice that were fed on a diet rich in protein for a week. The results of these experiments showed that if the diet lasted too long, there were no more positive effects. In fact, over the long term, it might even create a glycogenic imbalance, which happens when there are too many carbohydrates (sugars) in the blood.

The point is to balance your in-take of protein on a daily basis, so you can make the most of its benefits without it having a negative effect on your blood sugar level.

How can you avoid rampant hunger and irrational eating when you get to the table?

Gilles Mithieux: The idea is to begin a meal with types of food that are low in energy but very rich in water. In this respect, soups are perfect. Green salad is also ideal as this is rich in fibre and protein, and allows absorption of water: the stomach swells up and feels satiated very quickly. Crudités (raw vegetables) also have this effect, and so does yoghurt which is low in energy but which ‘takes up space’.

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Posted 27.04.2011

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