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Is a hormone called ghrelin responsible for our snacking?

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Sometimes food tastes so good, we just don’t want to stop. Despite being satiated and no longer feeling hungry, we merrily continue to eat. When we do this, we usually choose foods that we feel are especially delicious, hence giving us the impression as though we are rewarding ourselves.

American scientists have now discovered, after conducting their research on mice, that this behavior is quite possibly caused by a hormone called ghrelin. Our body produces this hormone, known as the “hunger hormone”, when it is hungry. The amount of ghrelin in the body decreases after we have eaten.

Many believe that our hunger makes food look particularly appetizing. The best example for this is when a hungry person walks through aisles of a grocery store: the probability is incredibly high that they will buy more food than if they weren’t hungry.

Previous studies have claimed that ghrelin can influence the brain, hence causing this type of behavior to occur. New research, conducted with mice at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, has shown hints that ghrelin actually could be what leads already satiated people to continue eating more.

Co-author of the study Jeffrey Zigman says: “There are situations in which we keep an eye out for especially rewarding food, even though we’re already full, for no other reason than that our brain tells us to.”

Zigman and his team believe that ghrelin’s affect on the body is that it increases the sense of eating rewarding food.

The researchers studied satiated mice by giving them a decision: either entering a room with fatty and delicious food or entering a room with simple feed. The mice that had received a dosage of ghrelin very clearly preferred the room with the fatty food. Mice without the hormone dose showed no preference for either of the rooms.

“We believe that ghrelin led the mice to the fattier foods, because it allowed them to remember how delicious it was,” Mario Perello, the study coordinator, said.

In the second part of the study, the researchers tested how long the mice continued their behavior of sticking their noses into holes to get to the fatty food.

“Those animals who did not receive a dosage of ghrelin gave up much faster than those who received a dosage of the hormone,” Zigman reported.

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Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Assorted_snacks.jpg

People and mice have the same types of neuro networks and hormones as well as a similar “feel good” part of the brain. So it is very plausible that the hormone is also what causes us people to snack and eat despite not being hungry.

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