UCLA Logo The idea of underweight babies facing greater chances of obesity seems rather counter-intuitive. However, professionals from the University of California (UCLA) have revealed the underlying mechanism behind the tendency of underweight kids to gain more weight.

Basically, the hypothalamus of the brain comes into play here, which is solely responsible for appetite regulation. The team found that the brain of these children carry larger proportions of neuropeptides that generate hunger. This exposed low-birth children to more desire for calories.

Lead author, Dr. Sherin Devaskar, professor of pediatrics and executive chair of the department of pediatrics at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, commented, “Other studies have shown that neuronal processes that signal the brain to eat were wired differently in the hypothalamus if a hormonal gene, such as leptin, was missing.”

Reported in the Journal of Neuroscience Research, a trial with rodents was conducted. The scientists inferred that limited growth in the womb led to underweight babies. As a result, neuropeptides that increase appetite and decrease energy release apparently elevated in these infants. The neuropeptides bringing out the opposite effect that is less hunger and more energy seemed to be less in them. This disrupted the appetite control cycle, thereby making the hypothalamus less resistant and more open to calorie consumption.

Apart from illnesses that are not within our control, malnutrition and intake of drugs or smoke are cited to be some reasons for low birth weight of children. The analysis will be extended further to gauge if these neuropeptide changes can be reversed in any way.