From an individual’s point of view, feeding behavior is fairly simple. You get hungry, you eat until you feel full, and then you stop. In reality, the way humans eat is based on a very complex system involving the function of nerves, hormones, and signals that are passed between different parts of the body. In a review by A.C. Heljboer et al, there is a deep look at the different types of hormones produced in the body and a description of what part they play in diet with an emphasis on the role of the hypothalamus.
Understanding the way the different components of the body interact to promote eating behavior is important for finding the best tools to fight excessive weight gain. Today, obesity is considered an epidemic in this country and the number of obese individuals is continuing to grow. There are major risk factors associated with obesity including type II diabetes mellitus, some types of cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Understanding the interactions that take place between the gut and the brain are important first steps towards understanding what leads to obesity in some individuals and not others.
Although we all feel hungry regularly when our bodies are in need of nutrition or we have depleted our energy supply, we don’t really think about what causes us to want to eat. Hormones secreted in different areas of the body trigger nerves to send signals that tell us we need food and others that tell us when we are full. Some hormones work through the hypothalamus to affect food intake while others work in many different areas of the brain. The brain is an organ that is sensitive to insulin where it signals that fat stores in the body are sufficient so that more glucose is not produced.
The hypothalamus in the brain has recently shown evidence as playing a key role in controlling energy and glucose metabolism, a factor that can determine if an individual develops diabetes. The review focuses on the ways this area of the brain and the gut interact to regulate eating, energy, and the metabolism of glucose.
The hypothalamus signals the peripheral organs in two different ways. One is by the stimulation of the autonomic nerves and the other is by the release of hormones via the pituitary gland. There are numerous hormones found throughout the body that are specific, meaning they deliver a message to a specific tissue of the body. Although many of these hormones have been shown through research to have an effect on glucose metabolism, the way that many of them work is not yet known or proven.
Regardless, this review shows that many studies have shown evidence that the central nervous system is a key factor in controlling glucose metabolism through the central pathways overlapping those that control the intake of food and the amount of weight gained by the body.
As research continues to narrow down the method of these hormones and they have an affect on both the intake of food and glucose and energy metabolism, there is hope that they will become useful tools in treating obesity and for the treatment of type II diabetes that results from obesity and related glucose resistance. These treatments will probably be in the distant future since testing for safety and effectiveness will be necessary before they can be used on people.