Appetite Hormone May Help Anxiety

Amy Hendel Health Guide

    OK, here is a true conundrum that I have discovered thanks to some recent research.  We know that one of the reasons why people overeat is because they're response to stress or anxiety is to immediately turn to food.  Though this may be a habitual and learned behavior - researchers have now also discovered that chronic stress seems to increase the levels of the hormone ghrelin.  Ghrelin is known as the hunger hormone and it is typically stimulated when you fast or don't eat for a long period of time. It then stimulates your brain to seek food as a response.  So if this hormone is also naturally stimulated by chronic anxiety - in order for the body to cope with those feelings - the net result is that you are also stimulated to eat.

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    Why is this so important?  Well recent research has been trying to discover ways to block ghrelin so that obese people eat less.  This new study suggests that if you block ghrelin for the benefit of trying to reduce the current epidemic levels of obesity plaguing the nation - you may interfere with the body's natural hormonal coping mechanism of dealing with anxiety.  And it is clear from a number of mice studies, that when the rats were starved, not only did they become hungry - they also become anxious - and their ghrelin levels rose - apparently in an effort to treat both uncomfortable situations - the hunger and anxiety. 


    There may be some good news though for a certain subset of the population.  If researchers could increase ghrelin levels in anorexics - they might be able to induce both a desire to eat AND an anxiety/depression coping mechanism - thanks to the stimulated levels of hormone.


Published On: July 20, 2008