Researchers at Yale University have stumbled upon a pair of molecules that have a profound role in dictating body weight and energy levels.
The mechanism is controlled by the brain .
Body weight and energy levels are complex and can be dictated by many factors. Some factors may be genetic (predisposition to obesity) or environmental (diet based).
People generally find that a diet full of simple sugars and junk food causes sporadic surges in energy post-meal but can cause a feeling of lethargy and sluggishness. Whereas, people who eat healthier and cleaner diets find that not only do they store less body fat but they feel that they have more energy. However, that kind of data is purely subjective.
The researchers found that the hypothalamus regulates a family of cells found throughout the brain; the hypothalamus has been long known to be involved in energy levels.
Current research is being conducted into melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) neurons and their role in controlling food in take and have less energy. Research has found that increased MCH levels directly cause increased mice to eat more and sleep more – suggesting that increased MCH increases food in take and lowers energy levels.
In direct contrast to that, another hypothalamic hormone, thyrotropic hormone (TRH/TSH), when acting as a neurotransmitter has been shown to decrease food in take, bodyweight and increase physical activity – suggesting higher energy levels.
The study shows that the two hormones MCH and TRH work antagonistically (against one another) creating homeostasis in the body and effectively telling the body to ingest more food or to stop eating for a while.
Oddly, TRH is usually involved in excitation but this study found that in order to block MCH action it acts as an inhibitor in MCH neurons. It also displayed no cross over effects with any other systems involves in energy levels.
This research allows medication or treatment to be focused on using TRH as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in MCH neurons. This would make people feel less hungry and have higher energy levels which may encourage exercise and a healthier lifestyle.