Maybe I can blame the Ghrelin....

Iris Liu
23 January 2012

Losing weight is often a common New Year’s Resolution. And it is often a very difficult resolution to follow through with. Recently, researchers at the UT Southwestern Medical Centre have uncovered a solution as to why some people continue to eat even when they are full.

Did You Know?
Those who follow a low carbohydrate diet and those who follow a low fat diet may lose the same amount of weight after one year. However, those who follow a low fat diet have a better improvement in mood.

Normally, Ghrelin (a hormone) is produced by the body and causes a person to feel “hungry.” However, in some obese or overweight individuals, Ghrelin may be stimulating these individuals to eat “pleasurable” foods even when full.

Did You Know?
Hormones are your body’s chemical messenger. They are responsible for allowing different organ systems to communicate with each other. They can regulate growth, development, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction and mood.

In fact, high levels of Ghrelin induce a stronger “reward” feeling. That is, it gives the person a sense of pleasure and it enhances their memory so that they can remember how to obtain this feeling again. When the scientists in this study blocked the action of Ghrelin in the bloodstream, the amount of high fat food ingested decreased.

Did You Know?
The reward pathway allows us to feel “pleasure” during certain activities, such as eating, drinking and sex. By giving us “pleasure” it ensures that certain activities (such as eating!) are repeated — thereby promoting survival. Curiously, humour itself can also stimulate the reward centre.

Although more research is required before the information can be applied to tackling problems such as obesity, we now have a better understanding on the connection between high fat foods and stimulating the “reward” centre in the brain. So next time you are tempted to eat that high calorie dessert, you can try blaming it on the Ghrelin!

Learn more!

How Ghrelin may be responsible for the “pleasure” sensation when ingesting high fat foods: http://esciencenews.com/articles/2009/12/28/researchers.find.clues.why.some.continue.eat.when.full

Effects of various kinds of diet on mood and cognition: http://www.hcvadvocate.org/news/newsRev/2009/NewsRev-337.html#_Diet_Rich_in

More information on Ghrelin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghrelin

More information on hormones in general: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hormones.html

Information on reward centres in the brain: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/addiction/reward/

Information on how humour itself can stimulate the reward centre: http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2003/december10/laughter.html

Article first published on January 10, 2010.

Iris Liu

I am a medical student at the UBC, Island Medical Program. Between coordinating for Gene skool, learning about medicine, and playing on my guitar, percussing my food and co-managing the In the News section of CurioCity, I occasionally wonder when I sleep! But all is well when I take the time to just reflect on the day by reading my Bible and writing plays about a fictional character named Cindy.


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