We are told that good health comes from eating well and regular exercise. (Read: 10 Healthy Eating Resolutions). The evidence to support this contention is overwhelming, but we still struggle with obesity as a nation.
Fast food is everywhere. (Read: Ensure Healthy Eating When Eating Out). The convenience of it is seems to undermine the health risks, and even if you frequently eat healthy meals, do you exercise regularly?
Genetics also play an important role. A family history of obesity certainly increases the risk for personal obesity. (Read: Genetic Causes of Obesity)
Aside from the better known risk factors for obesity, have you ever heard of the hunger hormone?
Ghrelin the Hunger Hormone
Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. A new study suggests lifelong obesity could be the end result if the levels of the hormone are unstable during infancy.
When we are low on nutrients, the stomach produces ghrelin and lets the brain know we need food. Shortly after, we become hungry. Some with Prader Willi syndrome are always hungry because their bodies produce too much of the hunger hormone. Research now suggests that a number of obese adults may be feeling that same effect because their bodies produced too much ghrelin when they were infants.
The hypothalamus has the highest density of ghrelin receptors in the brain. Unstable levels during infancy may influence the key region of the hypothalamus that is involved in the regulation of appetite.
In order to test this, researchers examined inhibited ghrelin action during the pre-weaning period in mice. They also tested to see if elevated levels early in life can have long-term effects. Blocking ghrelin resulted in the test mice gaining more weight, having more visceral fat and higher glucose levels than the control mice.
Axonal projections from the neurons inside the hypothalamus were measured to note the direct effects of ghrelin.
Blocking the hormone caused more axonal projections and a number of lifelong metabolic dysfunctions. Elevating the levels diminished axonal projections and caused other metabolic dysfunctions presented.
There are ways to help maintain healthy ghrelin levels. One is to make sure that infants get the proper amount of sleep. Sleep deprivation can raise levels.
Keeping a healthier diet is another way to help. Meals high in fat keep ghrelin levels low for a shorter period than do carbohydrate or protein-based meals. Early minimization of the risks will make for a healthier future.
In good health,