Can We Turn Off Hunger?
The common belief is that maintaining a healthy weight is simply a matter of willpower – exercise, control your appetite, and stick to a healthy diet and you’ll lose excess weight. But scientific research suggests weight control is not that simple. In fact, our appetite – what and when we eat – is influenced by a complex interaction between our caloric intake, hormones in our digestive tract, and neurons in our brain.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia recently conducted a study in mice to examine this interaction more closely by looking at what triggers neurons that stimulate appetite and what suppresses them, or turns them off. Results of the study were published in Cell Reports.
These neurons, called agouti-related protein-expressing (AgRP) neurons, are located in the hypothalamus. According to the researchers, administering hormones that are typically secreted during digestion – cholecystokinin, peptide tyrosine, and amylin – led to a significant decrease in the activity of the mice's AgRP neurons. More research is needed to determine whether the results can be duplicated in humans.