Obesity

How Cachexia And Obesity Are Oddly Related

Cachexia is a term used to describe the weight loss or wasting in patients suffering from chronic diseases like cancer and AIDS. In such a state, no amount of nutrition can reverse the condition.  Cachexia weakens the body and muscles due to loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia and poor response to any treatment.

Finding a way to deal with cachexia has been troubling to researchers.  Currently there are no drugs that are FDA approved to treat or manage the condition.   Much in the same way that dealing with obesity has been just as troubling.  Controlling body fat as well as appetite seems to be the common thread of these two conditions that are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Grehlin is a hunger-causing signaling molecule (or hormone), known as the hunger hormone.  Leptin is the counterpart of this hormone and is better known as the satiety hormone as it lets us know when we are full and have had enough.  Logically higher then normal levels of ghrelin have been associated with obesity and addictive eating and higher then normal levels of leptin have been associated with lack of appetite such as in anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders as well as in cachexia.  Interestingly, studies have found that levels of ghrelin are higher in cancer patients in their end stage and suffering from cachexia.  However since weight loss and lack of appetite are still apparent, it is postulated that there is some type of resistance to ghrelin.  There is an urgent need for effective therapies to help prevent and treat cachexia.  This condition affects the quality of life as well as survival for patients.  Scientists are continually trying to figure out how to prevent the resistance of ghrelin in cachexia.  More clinical trials with ghrelin and its effects on appetite and body weight may provide new approaches for managing patients and their long-term outcome.

On the other end of the spectrum is the treatment for obesity.  Amazingly the same hormone, grehlin, may be used as a treatment for obesity.  Scientists are continually looking for a way to block or cause some resistance to the hunger hormone in people that need to lose weight for the opposite effect as well as discovering the role that leptin can play.  It seems this one hormone can be the key to helping people on both ends of the spectrum from cachexia to obesity. 

References

Cachexia and obesity: two sides of one coin?:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12806212

Journey from cachexia to obesity by TNF:
http://www.fasebj.org/content/11/10/743

Active Ghrelin Levels and Active to Total Ghrelin Ratio in Cancer-Induced Cachexia:
http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/90/5/2920.long

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