Can't resist fatty foods? It's from natural marijuana-like compounds
Researchers say it’s no wonder it’s impossible to eat just one potato chip or French fry. In rat studies, researchers discovered fat in foods activates marijuana-like chemicals called endocannabinoids in the gut, causing the desire to keep eating.
Endocannabinoids are lipids that occur naturally in the body and bind to the same receptors as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
It turns out fats in food triggers gluttony, according to UC Irvine researchers Daniele Piomelli, Nicholas DiPatrizio and colleagues.
In the rat studies, the scientists noted sugars and proteins don’t send the same signals that makes it so hard to stop eating as fat does.
The scientists explain fat triggers the marijuana-like compound on the tongue. Next the brain receives a signal that travels to the vagus nerve and the onward to the gut where the marijuana like endocannabinoids are activated.
Next, more cell signaling takes place that drives hunger and satiety, prompting more eating.
Louise Turner Arnold Chair in the Neurosciences and professor of pharmacology explains, "This is the first demonstration that endocannabinoid signaling in the gut plays an important role in regulating fat intake.”
The urge to eat is important for animals, say the researchers, but in humans the result is obesity and chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes.
The endocannabinoid system has been the subject of much research. The drug rimonabant, approved for obesity treatment in Europe, then withdraw from the market, acts by binding to receptors in the brain and body organs to block the action of endocannabinoids.
One of the problems associated with blocking the endocannabinoid action, as was the case with rimonabant, is anxiety and depression.
The new study shows fatty foods are hard to stop eating because they stimulate marijuana-like compounds in the gut. The researchers suggest it may be possible to bypass the brain to block endocannabinoid receptors with new drugs that would control appetite, but without side effects.
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