Many people like to drink, but some people like to drink considerably more than others, and science isn’t always exactly sure why. The truth is that a lot of factors likely contribute to alcohol consumption, but the more we can learn about those factors the better we can treat alcohol abuse. A new study seems to have identified a new factor that heavily influences alcohol consumption–ghrelin.
Ghrelin has long been referred to as the “hunger hormone” because of the important role it plays in regulating appetite, meal initiation and food intake. This latest study aimed to measure the effects ghrelin has on alcohol consumption and brain function in regions of the brain associated with alcohol-related behaviors.
The senior author of this most recent study, Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, described the study to Sci News, saying that “Preclinical studies have shown that ghrelin has complex interactions with the brain, including the brain’s reward and stress pathways…While studies in animals have pointed to ghrelin’s possible role in alcohol-seeking behavior, its impact on alcohol intake by humans has been unclear.”.
The study divided people into two groups One group would receive ghrelin, and the other would receive a placebo. All the participants were given a button they could push for an intravenous alcohol injection.
The study found that the participants that received ghrelin were far more likely to initiate an alcohol injection and also received far more total alcohol injections than those who were given the placebo.
Why does this matter? Well if the connection proves to be consistent, than doctor’s could look for high ghrelin levels to identify people who are at a higher risk of alcoholism. The study is new, but incredibly interesting.