Can Hunger Make You Happy?

Many people think going on a diet will make them feel miserable, but it may, in fact, do the opposite.

When our body thinks it needs more calories, it gets a boost of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. But this hormone is also responsible for subduing stress, so researchers wanted to figure out if more of it meant more happiness.

A study found that mice with low levels of ghrelin acted depressed, not swimming in deep water, refusing to explore a maze, and keeping to themselves; while mice with high levels of ghrelin swam for their lives, enthusiastically toured a maze, and interacted with other mice.

The researchers say that you may not feel the euphoric effect until you've already lost 10% to 15% of your body weight, at which point it could become addictive. (In fact, this might help explain why anorexia is so difficult to cure.)

This doesn't mean you should starve yourself in pursuit of happiness. While reasonable calorie restriction can be good for you, extreme restriction could be a sign or cause of a serious problem.