Brain cells control appetite and body weight

By FoodProcessing Staff
Tuesday, 03 October, 2017

Researchers from the University of Warwick have found that a person’s appetite can be controlled with certain brain cells.

Published in Molecular Metabolism, Professor Nicholas Dale from the School of Life Sciences found that tanycytes — cells found in part of the brain that controls energy levels — detect nutrients in food and communicate this to the brain.

Tanycytes in the brain respond to amino acids via the same receptors that sense the flavour of amino acids (‘umami’ taste), which are found in the taste buds of the tongue. The two amino acids that react most with tanycytes are arginine and lysine, which are common in foods such as pork shoulder, beef sirloin steak, chicken, mackerel, plums, apricots, avocados, lentils and almonds. As a result, eating these foods will activate the tanycytes and make the individual feel satisfied for longer.

“Amino acid levels in blood and brain following a meal are a very important signal that imparts the sensation of feeling full. Finding that tanycytes, located at the centre of the brain region that controls body weight, directly sense amino acids has very significant implications for coming up with new ways to help people to control their body weight within healthy bounds,” said Dale.

During the study, researchers added concentrated amounts of arginine and lysine into brain cells, which were made fluorescent for monitoring purposes. Within 30 seconds, the tanycytes detected the amino acids and released information to the part of the brain that controls appetite and body weight.

With almost two-thirds of the UK population overweight or obese, researchers believe the findings could help stem the obesity crisis by raising awareness about how appetites work. The research can be used to find ways of suppressing a person’s appetite by activating tanycytes in the brain.

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