November 27, 2008

Discovery In Rodents May Combat Obesity In Humans

Scientists have recognized that a fatty material produced in the gut gives a signal to the brain when it's time to finish your meals, which is an innovation that may encourage new ways to combat obesity.

U.S. researchers announced on Wednesday that experiments with mice and rats indicated that a naturally produced fat-derived chemical messenger, known as NAPE, kept account of the quantity of what the animals ate. It is produced in humans and could have the same results, they said.

Gerald Shulman of Yale University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and colleagues stated that when the rodents were given a high is fat meal their small intestine produced a large amount of NAPE and sent it into the bloodstream. It then traveled to the brain and reduced hunger signals, they added.

NAPE levels increased greatly after the rodents consumed a fatty meal, but did not when they ate strictly protein or carbohydrates.

The researchers synthesized NAPE and introduced it into the animals, whose appetites lessened significantly. When NAPE was added in slighter amounts directly to the brain, the same results were accomplished on appetite as the larger dose injected into the bloodstream was.

NAPE focused in the hypothalamus, a significant brain structure that regulates hunger, and repressed neurons that encourage appetite, they said.

When the rodents were given extra NAPE for five days, they animals ate less and lost weight, the researchers said.

With obesity increasing worldwide as people consume unhealthy diets and exercise less, scientists are keen to discover novel approaches to fight the problem. These discoveries may help direct efforts to make better drugs to repress appetite and decrease obesity, the researchers stated.

"Clearly what we have in mind is trying to find new approaches that regulate food intake. And this may be a new pathway that one could target to treat obesity," Shulman said.

"We're now doing the fat-feeding studies in humans to see if we get a similar increase in plasma (blood) NAPE concentrations following a fatty meal," Shulman added.

Scientists are trying to find further information over how the body alerts the brain to manage food intake. Hormones like leptin that manages this system have proven unsatisfactory when scrutinized as weight-loss treatments.