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Did We Find Appetite’s On/Off Switch?

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How often do you feel hungry a day? Do you always enjoy having a good appetite? What are the things which turn off your desire to eat?

Appetite is the desire to eat food, sometimes due to hunger. Appealing foods can stimulate appetite even when hunger is absent. It exists in all higher life-forms, and serves to regulate adequate energy intake to maintain metabolic needs.

Feeling hungry is regulated by a close interplay between the digestive tract, adipose tissue and the brain. It has a relationship with every individual’s behavior. Appetitive and consummatory behaviors are the only processes that involve energy intake, whereas all other behaviours affect the release of energy.

Specific appetite, also known as specific hunger, is a drive to eat foods with specific flavors or other characteristics. The most robustly identified are salt appetite/sodium appetite, and only two other specific appetites, for iron and calcium, have been identified with experimental rigour so far.

Other appetites are thus currently classified as learned appetites, which aren’t innate appetites that are triggered automatically in the absence of certain nutrients, but learned behaviors, aversions to or preferences for certain foods as they become associated with experiences of malnutrition and illness.

An enzyme in one part of the brain seems to control appetite in mice, meaning it might one day be possible to curb overeating with medicine.

Enzymes are protein molecules in cells which work as catalysts. Enzymes speed up chemical reactions in the body, but don’t get used up in the process. Almost all biochemical reactions in living things need enzymes.


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