Certain body chemicals can keep you from overeating, new research shows. All you have to do is kick them into action. Here’s how.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Eating is the easy part. What’s not always simple is knowing when to stop. But scientists have discovered a physiological process that might be the key to controlling your appetite, consuming fewer calories, and feeling satisfied and energized. The main players: your brain, a gut hormone called secretin that helps your body digest food, and brown fat (a good fat in your body that burns calories).

The researchers found that as you eat a meal, your gut and your brain communicate with each other, and secretin has a surprising role in the conversation. When there’s enough of the hormone in your system, secretin stimulates your brown fat and motivates it into action. The brown fat generates heat, “and our hypothesis is that this in turn leads to a slight increase in the temperature of your brain, which activates neurons that trigger satiety, so you feel full,” explains the study’s lead author, Martin Klingenspor, the chair of molecular nutritional medicine at the Technical University of Munich.

STOP BEFORE YOU POP Eat enough to feel perfectly satisfied, not stuffed. 

“Anything that makes brown fat more active can help control appetite,” Martin says. Eating foods that prompt the release of secretin may be one good way to start. While more research is needed to determine the best secretin-boosting foods, other experts have discovered that certain fatty acids, like oleic acid (the kind found in olive oil), can stimulate the hormone. Drizzling some olive oil on your salad or dipping a piece of whole-grain bread in it may be a tasty way to eat less and feel fully content.