The incidence of obesity is rapidly escalating and has reached epidemic proportions. In all species, including rodents, humans, and sheep, there is large variation in the degree of weight gain across individuals in response to an obesogenic environment. This individual variation is, at least in part, determined by innate differences in energy expenditure, of which adaptive thermogenesis is a key component. The hypothalamus is essential to the control of body weight and adiposity. Appetite-regulating peptides within the hypothalamus exert reciprocal effects on food intake and energy expenditure, such that neuropeptides that stimulate food intake inhibit thermogenesis and vice versa. This review discusses the role of the hypothalamic neuropeptides in determining innate predisposition to obesity in 3 animal models being obesity-prone and obesity-resistant rodents, genetically lean and obese sheep, and animals selected for high/low cortisol responsiveness. In rodents, leptin resistance is a primary feature of the propensity to become obese. This contrasts that of larger mammals, such as sheep, where altered susceptibility to obesity manifests within the melanocortin and/or orexin pathways. This review highlights fundamental species differences within the hypothalamus that lead to altered susceptibility to weight gain and increased propensity to become obese.
- Appetite-regulating peptides