The “Y” and how of stress eating: Neuropeptide Y on the crossover between feeding and stress
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Chronic stress is detrimental to the health and increases the risk of obesity. Stress can disrupt feeding behaviour, which is regulated by a complex neuronal and hormonal network. The neuronal and endocrinal network of stress overlaps with the feeding network at some points, leading to stress eating. One of these overlapping points is neuropeptide Y (NPY), a potent orexigenic and anxiolytic agent. In this review, the overlap between the role of NPY in homeostatic feeding and in the stress response will be compared. Stress can elicit varied responses on both feeding behaviour and NPY expression and signalling. Acute stress inhibits feeding, whereas chronic stress tends to promote feeding. The stress eating network is responsible for stress eating, usually through the direct or indirect modification of NPY/AgRP neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus, and could be a potential target for the treatment of stress-induced obesity.