Research: Exercise Suppresses Your Appetite

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Exercise may be one key to preventing overeating.  

Exercise couple

With the ever-growing obesity epidemic, it is essential that we slow the growth of the world’s waistline.  The “exercise more and eat less” crowd have long touted this mantra as the solution for overeating and weight gain.  The group points to sell control and an inability to maintain good control of food intake as the cause of the epidemic.  No matter the cause of obesity is overeating, it is essential that we curb currently growing rate of obesity.  Although I would argue that a six pack of abdominals and weight loss occurs more in the kitchen than the gym, exercise may have some benefit in reducing your appetite.  

A new article from 2017 published in Clinical and Research in Arteriosclerosis looked at this very question[1].   The main purpose of the article was to review the evidence on the influence of physical exercise has on appetite through changes in hormone concentrations and changes in certain neuronal regions in the brain.  The results of the reviewed research appear to show how exercise produces changes in the appetite perception, in the amount of energy intake, and in different weight-control related hormones.  The researchers concluded that exercise leads to positive changes in appetite, hunger, and energy intake and leads to decreases the ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels and increases concentrations of leptin (satiety hormone).  If true, exercise would be beneficial for weight loss by reducing your hunger and cravings.  

I decided to research the claims of this article and below is a list of what I found:  

  1. Appetite: Exercise appears to lower your appetite.  This result has been confirmed by multiple studies[2],[3],[4],[5].  In particular, the effect of appetite suppression appears to increase with the intensity of the exercise[6].  The combination of the diet and exercise appears to also have a beneficial effect on appetite and adipokines dysregulation[7].
  2. Leptin: Leptin is the satiety hormone.  Help levels of leptin are associated with lower hunger or increased satiety.  It signals the body to feel full.  Research has proven that exercise increases leptin[8],[9].  
  3. Ghrelin: Ghrelin is the hunger hormone.  High levels of activated ghrelin are associated with increased hunger.  The results differ in many studies.  Some show ghrelin is decreased and others show that is inactivated by being acylated[10].  Both have the same effect so exercise suppresses hunger by supressing ghrelin activty.  
  4. Peptide YY (PYY): PYY is another hormone or peptide (amino acid chain) associated with suppressing hunger.  Higher concentrations in blood plasma are associated with aerobic exercise and lower levels of hunger[11].  

The bottom line: Although exercise is unlikely to create lasting weight loss on its own, in most instances, exercise decreases appetite through hunger and satiety hormones and will help you lose weight.  Exercise has long been touted as the cure for obesity and they might not be 100% correct but it definitely appears to be tied to increase satiety and decreased carvings.  

Footnotes
[1]Gómez Escribano et al., “Revisión y Análisis Del Ejercicio Físico a Nivel Hormonal, Cerebral y Su Influencia En El Apetito.”
[2]Gómez Escribano et al., “Revisión y Análisis Del Ejercicio Físico a Nivel Hormonal, Cerebral y Su Influencia En El Apetito.”
[3]Kissileff et al., “Acute Effects of Exercise on Food Intake in Obese and Nonobese Women.”
[4]Broom et al., “Influence of Resistance and Aerobic Exercise on Hunger, Circulating Levels of Acylated Ghrelin, and Peptide YY in Healthy Males.”
[5]Martins, Robertson, and Morgan, “Effects of Exercise and Restrained Eating Behaviour on Appetite Control.”
[6]Jahan-mihan et al., “The Effect of Intensity of Exercise on Appetite and Food Intake in Post-Exercise Period.”
[7]Lin et al., “The Effect of Exercise on Adiponectin and Leptin Levels in Overweight or Obese Subjects: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.”
[8]Lin et al.
[9]Reseland et al., “Effect of Long-Term Changes in Diet and Exercise on Plasma Leptin Concentrations.”
[10]Broom et al., “Influence of Resistance and Aerobic Exercise on Hunger, Circulating Levels of Acylated Ghrelin, and Peptide YY in Healthy Males.”
[11]Reseland et al., “Effect of Long-Term Changes in Diet and Exercise on Plasma Leptin Concentrations.”
Broom, D. R., R. L. Batterham, J. A. King, and D. J. Stensel. “Influence of Resistance and Aerobic Exercise on Hunger, Circulating Levels of Acylated Ghrelin, and Peptide YY in Healthy Males.” AJP: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 296, no. 1 (October 29, 2008): R29–35. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.90706.2008.
Gómez Escribano, Laura, Arancha Gálvez Casas, Antonio R. Escribá Fernández-Marcote, Pedro Tárraga López, and Loreto Tárraga Marcos. “Revisión y Análisis Del Ejercicio Físico a Nivel Hormonal, Cerebral y Su Influencia En El Apetito.” Clínica e Investigación En Arteriosclerosis 29, no. 6 (November 2017): 265–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arteri.2017.04.002.
Jahan-mihan, Alireza , Peter Magyari , Sherry Pinkstaff, Valeria Palamidy, Kristen Drake, and Christine Quinn. “The Effect of Intensity of Exercise on Appetite and Food Intake in Post-Exercise Period.” FASEB J: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, April 2016. http://www.fasebj.org/content/30/1_Supplement/1161.8.abstract.
Kissileff, HR, FX Pi-Sunyer, K Segal, S Meltzer, and PA Foelsch. “Acute Effects of Exercise on Food Intake in Obese and Nonobese Women.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 52, no. 2 (August 1, 1990): 240–45. [PubMed]
Lin, Hanxiao, Minling Hu, Yuxia Yan, and Hua Zhang. “The Effect of Exercise on Adiponectin and Leptin Levels in Overweight or Obese Subjects: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Sport Sciences for Health 13, no. 2 (March 31, 2017): 303–14. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11332-017-0358-5.
Martins, Catia, M. Denise Robertson, and Linda M. Morgan. “Effects of Exercise and Restrained Eating Behaviour on Appetite Control.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 67, no. 01 (January 30, 2008): 28–41. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0029665108005995.
Reseland, JE, SA Anderssen, K Solvoll, I Hjermann, P Urdal, I Holme, and CA Drevon. “Effect of Long-Term Changes in Diet and Exercise on Plasma Leptin Concentrations.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 73, no. 2 (February 1, 2001): 240–45. [PubMed]
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About the Author

ChuckH
I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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