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What Are Leptin And Ghrelin And How Do They Affect The Body Weight?

Ghrelin and leptin are the names of two hormones that play important roles in appetite control. Ghrelin is orexigenic, it stimulates appetite; leptin is anorexigenic, it suppresses appetite.

Both the hormones are secreted in a reciprocal rhythm which is affected by the neuropeptide Y (NPY) system in the hypothalamus. This unique mechanism shows rhythmic secretion of ghrelin and laptop, leading to the pattern of hunger and feeding behaviour expression.

Here, we will discuss details on leptin and ghrelin and their association with body weight. Take a look.

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What Is Ghrelin?

Ghrelin is an orexigenic hormone produced by the P/D1 cells in the stomach fundus mucosa, pancreatic epsilon cells, kidneys, gonads and adipose tissue.

The hormone plays a crucial role in short-term appetite regulation, with higher levels before meals and lower levels after meals. Ghrelin's orexigenic activity is based on increasing gastrointestinal peristalsis (movement of food through the digestive tract) and decreasing insulin secretion in the body. [1]

Some of the other functions of ghrelin may include:

  • Regulation of blood glucose by breaking down food into glucose and glycogen and reducing the secretion of insulin. [2]
  • Minimising heat generation by the body and conserving energy.
  • Reducing sympathetic activity.
  • Encouraging differentiation and fusion of muscle fibres.
  • Regulating bone formation and protecting bone. [3]
  • It's also found in a lot of metastatic cancer cells.

What Is Leptin?

Leptin is a hormone produced mostly by fat cells and the stomach. The hormone suppresses hunger by blocking the actions of neuropeptide Y or NPY (amino acids that stimulate food intake) [4] and anandamide (a neurotransmitter that regulates feeding behaviour), along with promoting the production of Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (group of hormones that control appetite). [8]

Leptin secretion is related to total adipose tissue mass, and its serum levels rise dramatically in obesity. The hormone is also involved in short-term food intake and body weight regulation.

How Are Grehlin And Leptin Linked To Body Weight?

Leptin controls ghrelin in two ways: it lowers the secretion of ghrelin by gastric cells and suppresses the expression of its receptors in the NPY system, thus preventing the latter from stimulating hunger. This helps maintain the loop between hunger and feeding and helps regulate body weight.

When this loop is broken due to any cause, obesity is caused. Leptin also aids weight maintenance by increasing the rate of thermogenesis (burning of calories). [9]

People with greater adipose tissue or fat have higher leptin levels circulating in their systems as leptin is produced by fat cells. This often develops a tolerance to leptin (leptin resistance) and its appetite-suppressing effects due to continuous exposure to the hormone.

Leptin resistance makes the brain believe you are still hungry and will keep sending signals to consume food for longer, though you are full. This makes the body consume more food than the required amounts, resulting in even high leptin levels and more leptin resistance. Leptin resistance and obesity can run in a cycle and could be difficult to break.

On the other hand, ghrelin is linked to causing obesity by stimulating hunger. Its levels fluctuate in response to changes in the body's energy reserves. Ghrelin levels in obese people drop only minimally after eating, making the brain believe that more food is required, thus leading to overeating. [10]


Functions of ghrelin and leptin can be improved by ways like:

  • Consuming fibre-rich foods and healthy fats or foods that provide satiety and control hunger pangs.
  • Getting sufficient sleep to improve better leptin sensitivity.
  • Exercising to improve leptin resistance in diabetics and obese people.
  • Staying hydrated or keeping the stomach full with healthy liquids like soups and fruit juices.

To Conclude

Consult a medical expert if you face problems related to appetite.

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