Hunger hormone may have a surprising impact on impulsive spending

The hunger hormone ghrelin may play a role in how a person manages their finances, according to new research that'll be presented by the Endocrine Society. Ghrelin stimulates the appetite, hence its nickname as the 'hunger hormone.' The same hormone may also have an impact on the decisions made about one's finances, particularly when it comes to impulsive purchases.

The study involved healthy female participants ages 10 to 22 years; 34 were healthy control subjects, while the remaining 50 were described as having a 'low-weight eating disorder' like anorexia. These eating disorders are, the researchers note, linked to ghrelin resistance.

As part of the study, the researchers tested the participants' ghrelin levels before and after a meal, then had the participants make hypothetical money decisions — these involved getting immediate, but smaller, amounts of money or delaying the reward a number of days in exchange for a larger sum of money.

The healthy participants who had higher levels of ghrelin were more likely to pick the immediate money reward even though it was smaller than the delayed reward. However, the researchers didn't find a link between ghrelin levels and financial choices in the eating disorder participants.

The study's co-investigator Franziska Plessow, Ph.D., said:

Our results indicate that ghrelin might play a broader role than previously acknowledged in human reward-related behavior and decision making, such as monetary choices. This will hopefully inspire future research into its role in food-independent human perception and behavior.