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New way to fight obesity targets taste receptors in the gut

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Researchers suggest weight loss with drugs that alter gut hormones.

Newer research suggests it might be possible to fight obesity by manipulating gut hormones. According to scientists, our gut can taste food too. Finding ways to alter hormones released in the intestines when we eat sweets, carbs and fatty foods could lead to new weight loss strategies.

According to the study authors, diet pills have failed to work, despite 25 years of research, making it important to find new weight loss strategies.

Manipulating gut hormones to make us feel full

Drs. Sara Janssen and Inge Depoortere, of the Translational Research Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium suggest obesity that leads to type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses could be treated with drugs that manipulate intestinal hormones to make us feel full.

"The effectiveness of bariatric surgery to cause profound weight loss and a decrease in the prevalence of diabetes and other obesity-related conditions is not completely understood, but it may involve changes in the release of gut hormones," Dr. Depoortere said in a press release.

"Targeting extraoral taste receptors that affect the release of hormones that control food intake may offer a new road to mimic these effects in a nonsurgical manner."

Excess food intake causes hormones in the gut to malfunction, the researchers explain.

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Our intestines respond to sweet, bitter and savory tastes by way of receptors in gut endocrine cells that release hormones that control appetite and regulate blood sugar.

Past research

Research from 2007 found how hormones secreted in the intestine might be contributing to obesity.

Carbohydrates that break down into sugar promote secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which is an intestinal hormone that promotes insulin secretion and regulates appetite.

A study from researchers in Copenhagen, published in the British Medical Journal, January 2012, found GLP-1 agonists like the anti-diabetic drug Byetta helped people with type 2 diabetes lose weight, in addition to controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Robert F. Margolskee, MD, PhD Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine said in a press release that the 2007 finding "...may explain why current artificial sweeteners may not help with weight loss, and may lead to the production of new non-caloric sweeteners to better control weight."

The current study authors suggest more studies are needed to identify which gut ‘taste’ sensors could be targeted with drug therapy to help fight obesity. Larger studies would also be needed to ensure drugs that alter gut hormones for weight loss are safe.

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