The Science of Hunger
As stated by Betley, “Being hungry can feel unpleasant, and these are the neurons that seem to mediate this. Animals don’t like this stimulation. In the laboratory, we can turn these neurons on with the flash of a light. Interestingly, we found that animals will scamper to the other side of the room to turn off the light.”
Within this study, the researchers also worked to distinguish between the effects of seeing/smelling food and actually consuming food on reducing the activity of these neurons.
Understanding the “science of hunger” is a major and critical step in combating obesity. This research will require further exploration and experimentation, but there is real potential for formulating treatments for obesity. If we could control hunger from a scientific aspect, manipulating the AgRP neurons, from a clinical perspective, it is possible that in the future such treatments could work alongside diet and exercise for those working to lose weight and improve their health.
But Betley admits that there is still a significant number of questions to be answered before that is a possibility, “It would be interesting to see whether consuming smaller meals more frequently might lead to less activity in the neurons and thus less food intake overall. Or maybe we can develop better combinations of foods or better ways of eating so we can avoid that 9 p.m. binge on Oreo cookies when you’ve had a really great diet all day.”