The “Ketogenic Diet” still has the word “diet.” Dieting is a dreaded word for most since we know the process is typically accompanied by hunger and cravings. For the traditional diet, success is dependent on an individual’s ability to manage hunger and stay on course with their diet. Once someone has finished their standard diet, maintaining progress depends on their ability to not want to eat every piece of junk food in sight that they have been craving for so long. Well, what if there was a diet that would prevent you from experiencing intense hunger pains during and after dieting? This is where the ketogenic diet may be able to help.
The Brain and Hunger
To understand how the ketogenic diet can impact our hunger, it is first important to understand how the body regulates appetite. The brain plays a significant role in regulating our appetite. To put this more simply, our brain tells our body when we need more food or when we have enough food. However, this mechanism is not fully functional in all individuals. It is thought that obese individuals may have impaired satiety signaling which can lead to increased caloric intake. The hypothalamus of the brain is our center for hunger/satiety (fullness) control. The foods we eat as well as the hormonal responses in our body can interact with this portion of the brain and cause us to feel either hungry or full. One of the oldest theories on how this is regulated is the glucostatic theory (1). This theory states that as our blood glucose decreases, as it does between meals, receptors in our brain receive signals to stimulate appetite. The other macronutrients as well as total calorie intake have also been studied as potential appetite regulators. Other systems of our body can also interact with our brain to signal appetite such as our endocrine system. Our endocrine system can regulate appetite in the short term by sending hormones to the brain following a meal and in the long term by sending hormones to the brain that reflect our body fat percentage. There is also growing evidence that our gut and gastrointestinal tract can regulate our appetite by interacting with our brain through several proposed mechanisms (involving ghrelin, amylin, pancreatic polypeptide, and peptide YY).