A recent study reveals a 'switch' in the brain that tells you when you've had your fill.
One of the biggest reasons people fail to lose weight and keep it off is because they continue to feel hungry after they have consumed a sufficient number of calories. Researchers have long been fascinated by this phenomenon, and weight loss studies often target this in hopes of finding a way to quell overactive appetites.
According to a report from the Independent, a recent study from scientists at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine may have finally identified the “switch” in the brain that regulates the appetite, which could have huge implications for people looking to shed unwanted pounds.
The scientists showed that sugar levels in the bloodstream could be responsible for letting the brain know when the stomach is full. They wanted to figure out why this switch sometimes fails, leading to overeating and obesity.
The study’s findings were published in the journal Science, and reveal how sugar in the bloodstream can regulate the hormones and brain functions that make us crave food. The researchers found the appetite switch in the brain as they were examining the connections between nerve cells in laboratory mice.
They found that the appetite switch is regulated by a specific enzyme called OGT. It is involved in many aspects of metabolism, including adding a chemical derivative of glucose to proteins that appeared to affect appetite in mice.
Scientists found that by removing the gene that codes for OGT from mice, they were unable to stop eating and continued to pack on weight. According to Olof Lagerlof, the study’s lead author, “These mice don’t understand that they’ve had enough food, so they keep eating.”
According to Professor Richard Huganir, the director of the department of neuroscience at the Hopkins School of Medicine, “The gene for the OGT enzyme regulates the balance of the satiety effect. When we artificially increase the activity of the gene, for instance, we can stop a normal mouse that is hungry from eating.”
The scientists believe that the same mechanism that regulated the mice’s appetites is present in humans as well. Professor Huganir suspects that scientists could eventually deliberately target the switch with medications that could correct the overeating problem, which could have huge implications for the fight against obesity.
A press release from Johns Hopkins describing the details of the study can be found here.