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Other namesHyperphagia
SpecialtyEndocrinology, Psychiatry

Polyphagia or hyperphagia is an abnormally strong sensation of hunger or desire to eat often leading to or accompanied by overeating.[1] In contrast to an increase in appetite following exercise, polyphagia does not subside after eating and often leads to rapid intake of excessive quantities of food. Polyphagia is not a disorder by itself; rather, it is a symptom indicating an underlying medical condition. It is frequently a result of abnormal blood glucose levels (both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia), and, along with polydipsia and polyuria, it is one of the "3 Ps" commonly associated with diabetes mellitus.[2][3]

Etymology and pronunciation[edit]

The word polyphagia (/ˌpɒliˈfiə/) uses combining forms of poly- + -phagia, from the Greek words πολύς (polys), "very much" or "many", and φαγῶ (phago), "eating" or "devouring".

Underlying conditions and possible causes[edit]

Polyphagia is one of the most common symptoms of diabetes mellitus. It is associated with hyperthyroidism and endocrine diseases, e.g., Graves' disease, and it has also been noted in Prader-Willi syndrome and other genetic conditions caused by chromosomal anomalies. It is only one of several diagnostic criteria for bulimia and is not by itself classified as an eating disorder. As a symptom of Kleine–Levin syndrome, it is sometimes termed megaphagia.[4]

Knocking out vagal nerve receptors has been shown to cause hyperphagia.[5]

According to the National Center for Biomedical Information, polyphagia is found in the following conditions:[6]

Polyphagia in diabetes[edit]

Diabetes mellitus causes a disruption in the body's ability to transfer glucose from food into energy. Intake of food causes glucose levels to rise without a corresponding increase in energy, which leads to a persistent sensation of hunger. Polyphagia usually occurs early in the course of diabetic ketoacidosis.[7] However, once insulin deficiency becomes more severe and ketoacidosis develops, appetite is suppressed.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ https://hpo.jax.org/app/browse/term/HP:0002591
  2. ^ Diabetes.co.uk
  3. ^ Healthline.com article "What are the 3 Ps of Diabetes?"
  4. ^ MACDONALD CRITCHLEY, PERIODIC HYPERSOMNIA AND MEGAPHAGIA IN ADOLESCENT MALES, Brain, Volume 85, Issue 4, December 1962, Pages 627–656, https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/85.4.627
  5. ^ de Lartigue G, Ronveaux CC, Raybould HE (2014). "Deletion of leptin signaling in vagal afferent neurons results in hyperphagia and obesity". Molecular Metabolism. 3 (6): 595–607. doi:10.1016/j.molmet.2014.06.003. PMC 4142400. PMID 25161883.
  6. ^ "Polyphagia (Concept Id: C0020505) - MedGen - NCBI".
  7. ^ Elliott RE, Jane JA, Wisoff JH (2011). "Surgical management of craniopharyngiomas in children: meta-analysis and comparison of transcranial and transsphenoidal approaches". Neurosurgery. 69 (3): 630–43, discussion 643. doi:10.1227/NEU.0b013e31821a872d. PMID 21499159. S2CID 12501723.
  8. ^ Masuzaki H, Tanaka T, Ebihara K, Hosoda K, Nakao K (2009). "Hypothalamic melanocortin signaling and leptin resistance--perspective of therapeutic application for obesity-diabetes syndrome". Peptides. 30 (7): 1383–6. doi:10.1016/j.peptides.2009.04.008. PMID 19394382. S2CID 30309208.

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