Intestinal Chemical May Suppress Appetite and Fight Obesity

Posted by Admin on January 23, 2009
A biochemical produced by the small intestine every time we eat a fatty meal and which signals the brain to suppress appetite may be the answer to the obesity epidemic, a recent study suggests. Researchers at Yale University who investigated the biochemical, known as N- acylphosphatidylethanolamine (NAPE), found that mice and rats injected with it ate less and lost weight. The scientists, who published their work in the journal Cell, theorized that NAPE curbed appetite by suppressing the activity of neurons in a brain region known as the hypothalamus.

In the study, the experimental animals' NAPE levels rose when they ate a fatty meal but not one of protein or carbohydrates. When the researchers injected NAPE into the rodents' abdomens, and again when it was injected into their brains, their appetite was reduced. This showed that NAPE acts directly on brain cells.

Moreover, when the rodents received the substance for five days, their lowered food consumption induced a loss of 10 percent of their body weight. "Chronic NAPE treatment is well tolerated and can cause weight loss by a reduction of food intake, we would have strong impetus to move toward human NAPE trials," said lead author Gerald Shulman, a professor of medicine and cellular and molecular physiology at Yale and a scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical School.

Obesity is growing like wildfire worldwide, and currently is at epidemic proportions in the United States, where some 66 percent of adults are overweight or obese, and 16 percent of children, aged 6 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And gastric-bypass surgery is one of the fastest-growing medical procedures in the country, the long-term complications of which are still unknown. Shulman's team plans to shift its experimentation with NAPE to primates. If the results are promising, the group will proceed to studies on humans.

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