How can I control my appetite?

August 11, 2014, Tufts University
How can I control my appetite?
Food addictions cannot be resolved by willpower alone. Credit: Depositphotos

James M. Greenblatt, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the Tufts School of Medicine and author of "Answers to Appetite Control," offers his advice.

Traditional treatment approaches for weight management and binge eating have failed, because our culture and beliefs about food have prevented us from recognizing the biochemistry at the foundation of disordered eating. Food addictions cannot be resolved by willpower alone. It is only by understanding the complex physiological phenomenon of appetite and the genetic, emotional and nutritional factors controlling it that a solution becomes possible.

At a basic level, the consumption of sufficient food for energy metabolism is essential to the survival of all species in the animal kingdom. However, mammalian brains have evolved several interrelated neural and biochemical systems that also drive feeding behaviors. For humans, the most potent drive for eating is often its rewarding nature. Chemicals in the brain produce a powerful rush of pleasure in response to certain foods—or even the thought of them. We are no longer eating to survive; we are eating to elicit a feeling of happiness and satisfaction.

Research has confirmed that our distinct physical and emotional reactions to food are strongly influenced by three molecular structures in the body: peptides, hormones and neurotransmitters. When these regulator molecules are in balance, we are able to identify when we are hungry and eat only until satisfied. Properly functioning neurobiological pathways allow hunger cues to be natural and appropriate, eating patterns to be synchronized and cravings to remain generally under control. However, to sustain this balance, the body requires adequate amounts of raw material in the form of small organic compounds called .

Amino acids are the simple protein building blocks that combine to form more than 50,000 complex peptides, hormones and neurotransmitters in our bodies. Despite the many functions that the amino acids perform, there are only 20 varieties of them, and they are classified as either "essential" or "nonessential." The liver manufactures 11 of the 20, while the remaining nine must be obtained through protein-rich foods in the diet.

Each amino acid influences food addiction in a specific way—primarily through the modulation of peptides, neurotransmitters and hormones. Tryptophan, for example, which is found in turkey and chicken and some fruits and vegetables, is the precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood and provides a feeling of satiation. Phenylalanine, an amino acid found in meat, fish, eggs, cheese and milk, influences hunger-regulating dopamine levels. Other peptides and amino acids impact appetite directly via their roles in the metabolism of glucose, a kind of sugar, and protein synthesis.

Without a sufficient supply of dietary amino acids for the production of peptides, hormones and neurotransmitters falter, and appetite can quickly spiral out of control. Unfortunately, amino acid deficiencies are surprisingly common, and many people struggle with low levels of them without realizing it. Several factors can contribute to an amino acid deficiency, including diets too low in protein (particularly vegan diets), poor digestion of protein, antacid use and stress. The good news is that digestive enzymes and amino acid supplementation can help.

When taken properly, amino acids can help to recalibrate the underlying biochemical imbalances that cause cravings, skew appetite and exacerbate destructive eating patterns. Using amino acids is not a new medical breakthrough. The solution is logical, commonsensical and easy. If a nutritional deficiency causes a problem, then supplementing the body with what it has been missing can solve it.

Contrary to what many diet books and some reports in the media lead us to believe, the basis of an appetite gone wild is not laziness or lack of self-control. Many people will experience a dramatic decline in cravings and the desire to binge when protein intake is optimized and digestion enhanced with enzymes and . By using such integrative approaches that are based on the underlying neurobiology of , it becomes much easier for individuals to achieve a healthy relationship with food.

Explore further: LDL cholesterol indicates an amino acid deficiency, researcher says

Related Stories

LDL cholesterol indicates an amino acid deficiency, researcher says

February 26, 2014
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad cholesterol" that doctors consider a sign of potential heart disease, is merely a marker of a diet lacking all of the essential amino acids, says University of Illinois comparative ...

No more turkey trash talk

November 26, 2013
Turkeys are heading to tables around the country for traditional holiday meals and countless leftovers, and its reputation as a sleep inducer gives many an excuse to nap rather than wash dishes or toss around a football. ...

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.