Researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg have discovered that a molecule within the immune system could affect hunger and satiety, and ultimately affect the bodyâ€™s ability to burn fat. This finding â€œcould in the long run lead to people fighting obesity by changing what they eat in line with how it affects the brain," says Erik SchÃ©le, a doctoral student.
Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a cytokine involved in the inflammatory process within the immune system. The molecule is known to cross the blood-brain barrier and work in the brain, especially in the hypothalamus, the portion that controls hunger and thirst. Normally, our levels of IL-6 are low, but increase dramatically during an infection, which often reduces our feeling of hunger.
IL-6 is also involved in regulating body temperature and energy mobilization. Higher amounts of the chemical messenger may help induce weight loss by increasing metabolism â€“ or our bodyâ€™s ability to burn fat.
"Interleukin-6 increases levels of substances in the brain that trigger weight loss, which could explain why high levels of this molecule lead to weight loss," says SchÃ©le, who presented his results in a thesis. He notes that previous findings in animals have found that rats injected with IL-6 have a higher metabolism and those who lack the molecule tend to get fat.
Although it is not yet fully understood how interleukin-6 in the brain affects body weight, there may be a dietary link. Non-related studies have looked at how nutrients such as calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and carbohydrate affect plasma circulation of IL-6, for example.
"This could in the long run lead to people fighting obesity by changing what they eat in line with how it affects the brain," says SchÃ©le.
University of Gothenburg (2012, September 24). Immune system molecule affects our weight. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 24, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com