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Stem cell manipulation might someday end obesity: How to curb food cravings now

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Breakthrough discovery could end obesity. How to reduce food cravings now.

Researchers focused on ways to stop the obesity epidemic have come up with a potentially permanent solution to stop overeating. Stem cells might be the answer to appetite control, according to findings published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Eating disorders cured with new brain cells?

Scientists say they have made a breakthrough in understanding how appetite and thus eating disorders can be controlled in the brain by testing rodents. What they discovered is that it is possible to manipulate neurons in the appetite control center of the brain in adulthood.

In the brain, cells called ‘tanycytes’ act like stem cells. In the mouse brain, just after birth and into adulthood, tanycytes add new neurons to the brain circuit that controls appetite, the researchers found.

The discovery is considered a breakthrough because until now it was thought appetite controlling cells in the brain were fixed for life when they are formed during embryonic development.

Dr Mohammad K. Hajihosseini, from University of East Anglia's school of Biological Sciences in the UK said in a press release: “Unlike dieting, translation of this discovery could eventually offer a permanent solution for tackling obesity."

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He says loss of neurons in the hypothalamus of the brain is the leading cause of eating disorders such as obesity.

Now that researchers understand the eating circuitry in the brain is not fixed, there may be a way to manipulate genes to control appetite. The next step is to locate genes and the cellular processes that control tanycytes, Hajihosseini, says. Developing a permanent solution with drugs that control how many appetite-regulating neurons are in the brain and their function could take up to 10 years, but the hope is that he finding will someday translate to helping obese humans.

The brain does play an important role in regulating appetite. If you want to reduce food cravings now:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Learn to meditate that can lead to slow, mindful and enjoyable eating
  • Ignore food cravings - they will pass in about 10 minutes
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat at regular times of the day to avoid low blood sugar levels and hunger
  • Avoid stress and other psychological triggers that can lead to overeating
  • Lower your intake of sugar and white flour products
  • Eat more whole grains to stave off hunger - examples include oats, beans and apples
  • Give yourself an occasional 'indulgence'. Reward yourself with a small but tasty sweet treat now and then - and then go for a walk.

The stem cell discovery could eventually lead to a permanent solution for obesity. Until then, take charge of your health by keeping track of your food intake, eating the right foods, exercising regularly and sleeping well at night that can go a long way for reducing food cravings. There is still no 'magic' for tacking obesity, but the new study might someday help people prone to weight gain.

April 5, 2013

Image credit: Morguefile