Several sex differences in eating, their control by gonadal steroid hormones and their peripheral and central mediating mechanisms are reviewed. Adult female rats and mice as well as women eat less during the peri-ovulatory phase of the ovarian cycle (estrus in rats and mice) than other phases, an effect under the control of cyclic changes in estradiol secretion. Women also appear to eat more sweets during the luteal phase of the cycle than other phases, possibly due to simultaneous increases in estradiol and progesterone. In rats and mice, gonadectomy reveals further sex differences: orchiectomy decreases food intake by decreasing meal frequency and ovariectomy increases food intake by increasing meal size. These changes are reversed by testosterone and estradiol treatment, respectively. A variety of peripheral feedback controls of eating, including ghrelin, cholecystokinin (CCK), glucagon, hepatic fatty acid oxidation, insulin and leptin, has been shown to be estradiol-sensitive under at least some conditions and may mediate the estrogenic inhibition of eating. Of these, most progress has been made in the case of CCK. Neurons expressing estrogen receptor-α in the nucleus tractus solitarius of the brainstem appear to increase their sensitivity to CCK-induced vagal afferent input so as to lead to an increase in the satiating potency of CCK, and consequently decreased food intake, during the peri-ovulatory period in rats. Central serotonergic mechanisms also appear to be part of the effect of estradiol on eating. The physiological roles of other peripheral feedback controls of eating and their central mediators remain to be established.
One contribution of 16 to a Theme Issue ‘Appetite’.
- © 2006 The Royal Society