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Comfort Food Hormone

July 21, 2011

A hormone called ghrelin is a key part of how stress triggers mice to seek out fatty food.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Another role for the hunger hormone…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Stress often prompts people to reach for tasty, high-fat comfort foods. Now, researchers are starting to unravel the reasons why. Jeffrey Zigman is an neuroscientist and endocrinologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He and his colleagues studied the role played by the hormone ghrelin, which regulates hunger and eating behavior. They found that ordinary mice put under stress sought out fatty, pleasurable food. But mice engineered not to respond to ghrelin chose their food differently.

JEFFREY ZIGMAN (UT Southwestern):

And we found that in those mice — that they were not able to go to the diet which is thought to be more pleasurable.

HIRSHON:

Zigman and colleagues found that ghrelin acts in a part of the brain involved in addiction and reward –providing a potential pathway for understanding why eating might help relieve stress. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.