In a new study, researchers found reducing mealtimes may help increase levels of the hormone, ghrelin, which may also increase motivation to exercise.
The novel finding indicates that better diet control, for example, limiting food intake to mealtimes or fasting intermittently, may help overweight people maintain a more effective exercise routine, lose weight and avoid debilitating complications such as diabetes and heart disease.
The research was conducted by a team from Kurume University School of Medicine in Japan.
Food restriction and regular exercise are the two main cost-effective strategies to prevent and treat obesity; however, the condition is often associated with a sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits, such as snacking and binge eating.
Consequently, adhering to a regular exercise regime can be difficult due to an inability to exercise for a prolonged period or a lack of motivation.
Ghrelin, often referred to as the ‘hunger hormone’, stimulates appetite through actions on the brain reward circuitry that increases motivation to eat.
It has also been reported to be essential for endurance exercise by increasing metabolism to meet the energy demands of prolonged exercise.
Although previous studies have suggested a relationship between ghrelin and exercise, it is not known whether ghrelin levels have a direct effect on motivation to exercise.
In this study, the team examined the link between exercise and ghrelin levels in mice.
Food intake and wheel-running activity were compared in mice given free access to food and those fed only twice a day for a limited time.
Although both groups ate a similar amount of food, the restricted mice ran significantly more.
Mice genetically altered to have no ghrelin and on the restricted feeding diet ran less than the mice given free access, however, this could be reversed by administering ghrelin.
Furthermore, mice given free access to food and given ghrelin also ran significantly more.
These findings suggest that ghrelin may play an important role in the motivation for both feeding and exercise, in response to restricted eating plans.
The team says that hunger, which promotes ghrelin production, may also be involved in increasing motivation for voluntary exercise when feeding is limited.
Therefore, maintaining a healthy eating routine, with regular mealtimes or fasting, could also encourage motivation for exercise in overweight people.
The study is published in the Journal of Endocrinology.
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