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What Makes A Happy Meal?

June 23, 2011

Many people when stressed turn to high calorie “comfort foods”. Despite the contribution this behavior makes to the current obesity epidemic, little is known about the molecules and nervous system circuits that control it. Insight into this could provide new targets for the development of therapeutics to curb this potentially detrimental behavior. In this context, a team of researchers, led by Jeffrey Zigman, at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, working with a new mouse model of prolonged psychosocial stress that features aspects of major depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, has now found that the hormone ghrelin is required for prolonged psychosocial stress to promote preference for and intake of high-fat food. Further analysis revealed the nervous system circuits that mediate these effects of ghrelin. The team hopes that further studies will provide additional insight into the control of stress-induced food-reward behavior and identify additional therapeutic targets.

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