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Nutrition. 1996 Jan;12(1 Suppl):S57-62.

The gut-brain brain-gut axis in anorexia: toward an understanding of food intake regulation.

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Department of Surgery, University Hospital, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA.


Our long-term objectives continue to be elucidation of the mechanisms that control spontaneous food intake (SFI), so that we may utilize this information in seeking ways to ameliorate abnormalities of SFI that occur in nutritionally ill humans. To this end, we have developed and used an Automated Computerized Rat Eater Meter (ACREM), which allows detailed determinations of food intake and feeding patterns under a wide variety of experimental conditions. Because food intake is the product of meal number and meal size, these indexes were studied in a variety of experimental situations: normal male Fischer rats, genetically obese Zucker rats, cancer-bearing rats, and an inflammatory bowel rat model. In each model, a reduction in food intake was accomplished; usually by a selective reduction in meal number and, occasionally, meal size; often in both. The independent regulation of meal number and meal size strongly suggests the existence of focal neuronal areas in the hypothalamic food regulatory areas of the brain, which independently control these feeding indexes. To these feeding pattern studies were added in vivo focal hypothalamic microdialysis to correlate changes in meal size and number with changes in the basic neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. To further gain an understanding of anorexia and food intake regulation in these models as it relates to the brain and gut interaction, we used metabolic stimulants, anatomic ablation, and electrophysiological studies, cytokines, selective neurotransmitter agonists, and antagonists peripherally in the gut and centrally in the brain. An integrated view of the gut-brain brain-gut control of food intake has emerged as a working and testable model system. The system includes oronasal pregastric factors, which stimulate an increase in LHA-dopamine facilitating gastric compliance via efferent vagal fibers; postabsorptive factors, including nutrients and hepatoportal receptors via afferent vagal fibers that inhibit further LHA-dopamine, thereby regulating meal size. The same postabsorptive factors simultaneously decrease VMH-dopamine, thereby determining postprandial intermeal duration, because food intake is resumed when VMH-dopamine normalizes--thus regulating meal number. Changes in plasma amino acids, the precursors for neurotransmitters, also affect brain availability for neurotransmitters. This in particular applies to tryptophan, the precursor of serotonin in the VMH, which induces a decrease in meal number and cytokines, which facilitate activity of both dopamine and serotonin.

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