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Hunger hormone: Makes food more attractive
Date:5/6/2008

This release is available in French.

A new brain-imaging study by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University reveals that ghrelin - a stomach hormone, acts on specific regions of the brain to enhance our response to food related cues and eating for pleasure. This study, published in the May 7 issue of Cell Metabolism, is critical to advance understanding and treating obesity, a condition affecting millions world-wide.

Appetite was previously thought of as being controlled by two separate mechanisms: homeostatic and non-homeostatic or hedonic food consumption. Homeostatic feeding is controlled by hormones such as ghrelin, that act on the brain to tell the body when to eat in an attempt to keep a constant body weight. Hedonic consumption is triggered by visual or smell cues. For example, wanting to eat a piece of cake just because it looks good and will bring pleasure when eaten. This study demonstrates that both food consumption behaviours are inter-connected and a key player in their regulation is the stomach hormone ghrelin.

Our study demonstrates that ghrelin actually activates certain regions of the brain to be more responsive to visual food cues, thereby enhancing the hedonic and incentive responses to food-related cues, says Dr. Alain Dagher, neurologist at the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University and principal investigator in the study. Ghrelin is a hormone that triggers hunger, and is secreted by the stomach [when it is empty]. An easy analogy would be to think about when you go shopping on an empty stomach, you tend to buy more food and products higher in calories. The reason is that your brain views the food as more appealing, largely due to the action of ghrelin on the brain.

The study supports the view that obesity must be understood as a brain disease and that hunger shou
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Contact: Anita Kar
anita.kar@mcgill.ca
514-398-3376
Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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