Ghrelin is a hormone that helps regulate body weight and metabolism. Higher ghrelin levels lead us to expend less energy and to eat more in an attempt to conserve resources. Now a group in Portugal has shown that it’s possible to immunize mice against ghrelin, using their own immune system to suppress levels of the hormone. This is another avenue to reprogramming our metabolisms to avoid one of the largest health perils of our age: obesity. (Not to mention the obvious cosmetic appeal.)
Compared with unvaccinated controls, vaccinated mice—both normal-weight and obese mice—developed increasing amounts of specific anti-ghrelin antibodies, increased their energy expenditure and decreased their food intake, the authors reported. Within 24 hours after the first vaccination injection, obese mice ate 82 percent of the amount that control mice ate, and after the final vaccination shot they ate only 50 percent of what unvaccinated mice ate, Monteiro said.