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Researchers Discover Possible Link between Eating Motivated by Pleasure and the Hormone Ghrelin


A new research study to be published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism highlights a possible link between the hormone ghrelin and eating that is motivated by pleasure as opposed to hunger.

It is believed that hedonic eating (eating that is motivated by the pleasure derived from tasting food) rather than eating for the purpose of meeting the energy needs of the body results in the activation of chemical signals that may cause overeating. This in turn, may be one of the factors responsible for the increase in the number of people affected by obesity. Researchers suggest that it is possible that endogenous substances such as the hormone ghrelin and the chemical compound 2-AG that regulate the motivation/reward system may be involved.

As an example of hedonic eating, the researchers from the University of Naples SUN in Italy described a scenario in which a person may desire and then consume a piece of cake after having just eaten a satiating meal.

The study involved eight healthy adults of 21 years of age who were “full” following a meal. The researchers proceeded to feed each individual their favorite food, and then offered the participants a less-palatable food of equal nutrient and caloric value. During the experiment, the plasma levels of the participants’ ghrelin and 2-AG were measured.

The researchers discovered that the individuals’plasma levels of ghrelin and 2-AG increased during hedonic eating (when the participants were given their favorite foods) but not during the consumption of less-palatable foods (or non-hedonic eating). It is believed that the increase in ghrelin and 2-AG resulted in the activation of the chemical reward system and overcame the usual body signals that enough nutrients have been consumed in order to restore energy levels. This caused the study participants to continue eating even when they were satiated.

Source: Medical News Today