The current obesity "epidemic" in the developed world is a major health concern; over half of adult Canadians are now classified as overweight or obese. Although the reasons for high obesity rates remain unknown, an important factor appears to be the role stressors play in overconsumption of food and weight gain. In this context, increased stressor exposure and/or perceived stress may influence eating behavior and food choices. Stress-induced anorexia is often noted in rats exposed to chronic stress (e.g., repeated restraint) and access to standard Chow diet; associated reduced consumption and weight loss. However, if a similar stressor exposure takes place in the presence of palatable, calorie dense food, rats often consume an increase proportion of palatable food relative to Chow, leading to weight gain and obesity. In humans, a similar desire to eat palatable or "comfort" foods has been noted under stressful situations; it is thought that this response may potentially be attributable to stress-buffering properties and/or through activation of reward pathways. The complex interplay between stress-induced anorexia and stress-induced obesity is discussed in terms of the overlapping circuitry and neurochemicals that mediate feeding, stress and reward pathways. In particular, this paper draws attention to the bombesin family of peptides (BBs) initially shown to regulate food intake and subsequently shown to mediate stress response as well. Evidence is presented to support the hypothesis that BBs may be involved in stress-induced anorexia under certain conditions, but that the same peptides could also be involved in stress-induced obesity. This hypothesis is based on the unique distribution of BBs in key cortico-limbic brain regions involved in food regulation, reward, incentive salience and motivationally driven behavior.
- Gastrin-releasing peptide
- Neuromedin B