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Rhesus Monkey Roundup

May 30, 2008

The rhesus monkey pecking order reveals a link between stress and calorie intake.


Insights into overeating from monkeys. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Female rhesus monkeys have rigid social heirarchies in which the dominant females constantly harass subordinate females. Scientists at Emory University have found that when given a range of food choices, the subordinate females chose higher calorie foods than the dominant females, and ate more frequently—even in the middle of the night. In addition, the subordinate females had higher levels of stress hormones, in their blood. These hormones cause the body to store more fat for each calorie consumed. The finding could explain how stress can lead to obesity.

In other news, researchers at University College London have identified two proteins that allow our stomachs to expand by a factor of twenty-five when we eat large meals. It’s possible that a pill that counteracts this effect could make people less interested in overeating. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.