Effect of hunger hormone in early life may influence obesity risk in later life
- A complex network of neural circuits regulates body weight and energy balance. When the stomach is empty, ghrelin is secreted and acts on the arcuate nucleus in the brain to initiate feeding. Until now, little was known about the importance of ghrelin on development of brain mechanisms regulating body weight and appetite.
- Full4Health partner, Sebastien Bouret and his team in Lille investigated the role of ghrelin during early life in mice:
- Blocking the hormone soon after birth resulted in more axonal projections in the arcuate nucleus and caused lifelong metabolic disturbances, including obesity and diabetes.
- Increasing ghrelin during this period impaired the normal growth of arcuate projections and caused metabolic dysfunction.
- Thus neonatal ghrelin directly influences development in the part of the brain related to appetite and the regulation of metabolism.
Sufferers of Prader-Willi syndrome exhibit elevated ghrelin levels. Uncontrolled hunger in these patients leads to severe obesity so a greater understanding of the role of ghrelin in early life will be important in development of interventions to reverse the symptoms of metabolic disease.
J Clin Invest. 2015 Feb; 125(2):846-58. doi: 10.1172/JCI73688