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Annu Rev Nutr. 1997;17:597-619.

Why do we eat? A neural systems approach.

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Minnesota Obesity Center, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Minneapolis 55417, USA.


Neuroregulators found at various brain sites are involved in controlling food intake, a behavior that occurs for many reasons. Different neuroregulators may affect different stimuli that impact eating behavior. For example, neuropeptide Y may initiate feeding for energy needs, opioid peptides may provide the rewarding aspects of eating, and corticotropin releasing factor may affect stress-induced eating. We know that the neural networks regulating feeding also impact other components of energy balance. Neuropeptide Y not only increases eating, it also decreases energy expenditure in brown fat and increases enzymatic activity associated with fat storage in white fat, resulting in a more obese animal. What the sites of action are of these neuroregulators and how they interact with regulators at other sites are of utmost importance. Different regions of the brain, together with the periphery, communicate via signals acting in coordinated fashion, which leads to the final outcome: eating less or more and expending less or more energy.

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