The World Health Organisation has estimated that by 2015 approximately 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million obese. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular events, stroke and cancer. The hypothalamus is a crucial region for integrating signals from central and peripheral pathways and plays a major role in appetite regulation. In addition, there are reciprocal connections with the brainstem and higher cortical centres. In the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus, there are two major neuronal populations which stimulate or inhibit food intake and influence energy homeostasis. Within the brainstem, the dorsal vagal complex plays a role in the interpretation and relaying of peripheral signals. Gut hormones act peripherally to modulate digestion and absorption of nutrients. However, they also act as neurotransmitters within the central nervous system to control food intake. Peptide YY, pancreatic polypeptide, glucagon-like peptide-1 and oxyntomodulin suppress appetite, whilst ghrelin increases appetite through afferent vagal fibres to the caudal brainstem or directly to the hypothalamus. A better understanding of the role of these gut hormones may offer the opportunity to develop successful treatments for obesity. Here we review the current understanding of the role of gut hormones and the hypothalamus on food intake and body weight control.
The Japan Endocrine Society