This research finding gives stress eating a whole new meaning.
Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia have been putting a little known hormone called uroguanylin under the microscope to better understand its role in the weight control process.
There are about eight key hormones that play essential parts in metabolism, which is the biological process that controls breaking down food into its basic nutrients (or lack thereof). An important part of that process involves hormones sending signals that tell your body when it’s time to eat and when it’s time to stop eating. The two most well known of these “traffic light” hormones are ghrelin (the “eat” hormone) and leptin (the “stop eating” hormone). Uroguanlyn can be thought of as a cousin to leptin as its main function is to signal a decrease in appetite.
A large amount of weight control clinical research centers on how metabolic hormones function differently in people with higher vs. lower body weight. However, the researchers at Thomas Jefferson University studied a different angle, specifically looking at how the hormone uroguanlyn behaves in reaction to the number of calories introduced into the body, regardless of body weight.
What they discovered is that when too many calories are consumed, the body shuts down production of uroguanylin. This effectively cuts off a critical “stop eating” signal and naturally can lead to the consumption of even more food. On the flip side, when the number of calories consumed is low, the production of uroguanlyn resumes.
The researchers believe that the uroguanlyn shutdown is a result of the sheer amount of stress that the calories, in the form of food, has on the body. In a nutshell, the high levels of caloric stress appear to be related to eating behavior, which is highly correlated with body weight.
The takeaway of this research supports restricting calories as an effective way to control weight. While the researchers have yet to determine the specific calorie threshold that controls uroguanlyn production, it opens up a promising new path towards more effective weight loss treatment.