Ghrelin at the interface of obesity and reward.
Vitamins & Hormones, January 2013
The prevalence of obesity continues to increase and has reached epidemic proportions. Accumulating data over the past few decades have given us key insights and broadened our understanding of the peripheral and central regulation of energy homeostasis. Despite this, the currently available pharmacological treatments, reducing body weight, remain limited due to poor efficacy and side effects. The gastric peptide ghrelin has been identified as the only orexigenic hormone from the periphery to act in the hypothalamus to stimulate food intake. Recently, a role for ghrelin and its receptor at the interface between homeostatic control of appetite and reward circuitries modulating the hedonic aspects of food has also emerged. Nonhomeostatic factors such as the rewarding and motivational value of food, which increase with food palatability and caloric content, can override homeostatic control of food intake. This nonhomeostatic decision to eat leads to overconsumption beyond nutritional needs and is being recognized as a key component in the underlying causes for the increase in obesity incidence worldwide. In addition, the hedonic feeding behavior has been linked to food addiction and an important role for ghrelin in the development of addiction has been suggested. Moreover, plasma ghrelin levels are responsive to conditions of stress, and recent evidence has implicated ghrelin in stress-induced food-reward behavior. The prominent role of the ghrelinergic system in the regulation of feeding gives rise to it as an effective target for the development of successful antiobesity pharmacotherapies that not only affect satiety but also selectively modulate the rewarding properties of food and reduce the desire to eat.
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