New Weight Loss Treatments Target the Brain

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Losing weight is difficult. Much research has been devoted to developing drugs that promise weight loss. Few weight loss programs have been successful. Bariatric surgery has become an option, but it is not without risks. According to a study published November 26 in the journal Cell, scientists have isolated a natural compound that promotes weight loss in mice by curbing appetite. The compound, called NAPES, when injected into mice in the lab, stimulated neurons in the brain that halted hunger.

NAPE's (N-acylphosphatidylethanolamines) are a class of lipids found in the body that play a previously unknown role, though they are plentiful. The current research shows that NAPE's rapidly circulate in the body after we eat fat, traveling to the brain. It is found in large concentrations in the hypothalamus. NAPE's are produced in the intestine. The value of NAPE's in weight loss was found during the study as the researchers noted how the natural compound curbs appetite when injected into the mice.

Researchers have tried to navigate the complexity of appetite control in humans without much success. Weight loss treatments span a wide range of options. Most are disappointing. We know the brain plays an important role in appetite control. Weight loss supplements, though widely marketed, have had limited success. Many carry unwanted side effects.

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The authors of the current study say," NAPE and long-acting NAPE analogs may be novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of obesity". Plans include further study of the weight loss treatment in humans. Past studies have already shown that when we eat healthy fat, the intestine releases oleoylethanolamide (OEA), a compound that also controls appetite by signaling the brain. Oleoylethanolamide has also been suggested as a weight loss treatment.

Researchers have been actively seeking answers to how the brain signals us to eat more. Controlling the amount of fat we eat seems to stem from a combination of physiologic factors that clearly lead to overeating.

How those physiologic responses translate to appetite is now viewed as an important factor for weight loss. "The association between fat consumption and obesity underscores the need to identify physiological signals that control fat intake", according to Gary J. Schwartz and colleagues who studied the role of oleoylethanolamide (OEA) mobilization in the intestine, published in the October 2008 issue of Cell Metabolism. The results of that study also showed that when OEA is given as a drug, the brain signals us that our appetite is satisfied. The goal of developing new weight loss drugs is recently focused on finding ways to target the brain's response to appetite.

For now, weight loss should be easier if we focus on better eating habits. Ingesting foods with naturally occurring compounds that satisfy appetite can be accomplished by eating healthy fat such as nuts, avocados and olive oil. Chemical compounds found in processed foods induce weight gain, and have been the target of much research, including MSG. Selling weight loss drugs is big business. It seems that weight loss treatments are growing as fast as our waistlines, as we look for promising weight loss treatments.

Sources:
The Lipid Messenger OEA Links Dietary Fat Intake to Satiety
N-acylphosphatidylethanolamine, a Gut- Derived Circulating Factor Induced by Fat Ingestion, Inhibits Food Intake

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