January 05, 2010
Ghrelin Hormone Regulates Mouse Food Seeking

Blocking the hormone ghrelin in mice reduced how hard they'd try to get food. Mice with added ghrelin were more drawn to food.

The premise that hunger makes food look more appealing is a widely held belief just ask those who cruise grocery store aisles on an empty stomach, only to go home with a full basket and an empty wallet.

Prior research studies have suggested that the so-called hunger hormone ghrelin, which the body produces when it's hungry, might act on the brain to trigger this behavior. New research in mice by UT Southwestern Medical Center scientists suggest that ghrelin might also work in the brain to make some people keep eating "pleasurable" foods when they're already full.

"What we show is that there may be situations where we are driven to seek out and eat very rewarding foods, even if we're full, for no other reason than our brain tells us to," said Dr. Jeffrey Zigman, assistant professor of internal medicine and psychiatry at UT Southwestern and co-senior author of the study appearing online and in a future edition of Biological Psychiatry.

Scientists previously have linked increased levels of ghrelin to intensifying the rewarding or pleasurable feelings one gets from cocaine or alcohol. Dr. Zigman said his team speculated that ghrelin might also increase specific rewarding aspects of eating.

Drugs that block ghrelin production might make weight loss, drug addiction, and alcoholism easier to control.

Would added ghrelin help dangerously skinny people who have anorexia?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 January 05 11:20 PM  Brain Appetite

Kudzu Bob said at January 6, 2010 1:36 AM:

"Would added ghrelin help dangerously skinny people who have anorexia?"

Are you nuts or something? Anorexic chicks are hot! And to make sure they stay that way I'm always going up to them and saying, "Well, *I* think the extra weight looks good on you." Works every time. So don't screw up one of my chief pleasures in life, you hear me?

isaac said at January 6, 2010 4:58 AM:

1) Ghrelin has very little to do with weight loss. Both the ghrelin and ghrelin receptor knockout mouse have little to no phenotype with respect to obesity across multiple labs.

2) Anorexia is a psychological disorder. You can bet that during starvation, the body's desire to eat has already kicked in and every hormone that induces eating is already screaming.

random said at January 6, 2010 8:39 AM:

How the hell did they block Ghrelin? Inquiring minds must know this secret!

random said at January 6, 2010 11:04 AM:

Interesting. It looks like some of the drugs with potential to inhibit Ghrelin also act as powerful Growth Hormone inhibitors (similar properties to somatostatin). Not good for anyone wanting to stay healthy in their old age.

The more direct methods involve a vaccine against ghrelin, but there are concerns that it may cause the immune system to attack parts of the brain. Looks like this is a long way off.

Peter Andrews said at January 6, 2010 12:06 PM:

isaac commented:
2) Anorexia is a psychological disorder. You can bet that during starvation, the body's desire to eat has already kicked in and every hormone that induces eating is already screaming.

I don't doubt that anorexia could be a psychological disorder but found Gary Taubes' musings in Good Calories, Bad Calories that anorexia could very well be a fat dysregulation issue very interesting. If for some reason, fat absorption was hindered in an anorexic such that the blood would be kept high in fatty acids, this would probably result in not feeling hungry.

Bob Badour said at January 6, 2010 1:55 PM:

Whether an anorexic would feel hungry would depend a lot on what foods the anorexic does eat. If the anorexic eats extremely low carbs to stay in a ketogenic state, the anorexic would not feel hunger. Then again, I have never been in an anorexic state without body fat so that might make a difference.

On the other hand, anorexia is about control. Some anorexics probably eat some carbs just to make themselves feel hungry so they have something to conquer.

Mthson said at January 7, 2010 7:49 AM:

If anorexics just got on a responsible calorie restriction diet, they'd be healthier than the rest of us.

Nancy Lebovitz said at January 7, 2010 10:34 PM:

From what I've read, anorexics are very hungry. The disease may well have something to do with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Robert M. said at January 12, 2010 10:07 AM:

Anorexia is a neuroendocrine disorder involving leptin malfunction, e.g.


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