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Restricted Meal Times Enhance Hunger Hormone Ghrelin

Update Date: Dec 16, 2015 02:53 PM EST

There is a "hunger hormone" called ghrelin, which really helps rats that have limited feeding schedules learn how to eat more, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Southern California.

Researchers reduced the meals for the rats to only a daily four-hour window, which was followed by 20 hours without food. However, scientists discovered that ghrelin helped rats to bring down the feeling of fullness, so that they could slowly begin to consume more food.

In the experiment, once rats became aware of their restricted eating habits, they decided to eat double their normal meals, according to scienceworldreport.

"We are looking deep into the higher order functions of the brain to unpick not just which hormones are important for controlling our impulses but exactly how the signals and connections work," said lead author Scott Kanoski from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, in a news release.

The ghrelin hormone communicates with neurons from the hippocampus in order to enhance the appetite, enabling a lot of food to be eaten in less time. After that, neurons communicate with the hypothalamus, generating the molecule orexin, in order to promote hyperphagia, or excessive eating.

Earlier, it was known that ghrelin sends signals to the hippocampus in order to heighten the rats' food intake, if they are able to see a visual signal they have to learn to link with a meal that is pending.

This may be replicated even in your life. If you see a fast-food sign, you might think of food quickly, which is tough to resist, as you may want to buy and consume food.

Ghrelin tends to enhance the rate at which nutrients pass through the body. However, it would be best if it happened slowly, so that it can create a feeling of fullness over long periods.

Scientists believe that it is possible to reduce the effects of ghrelin, if the effects of its receptor in the hippocampus is genetically suppressed. This can be done if the neurochemical signals signalling for a large amount of food are disrupted.

The study is published in the journal eLife.

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