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The brain could hold a clue for weight loss

Posted:  Thursday, January 22, 2015

One would think a good way to lose weight would be to control the taste buds in the tongue. Surprisingly, the brain can bring about weight loss by influencing the action of 2 hormones, say researchers of a new study.

Published in the journal Cell, the study identified the molecular mechanism by which the nervous system can stimulate fat burning. This mechanism is based on the combined action of 2 hormones, namely leptin, an appetite suppressant generated in fat cells and insulin, which is produced in the pancreas. These 2 hormones act on a group of neurons to bring about fat burning.

According to the researchers, the levels of these 2 hormones are a reflection of the fat in the body. High levels of leptin indicate increased fat stores, whereas insulin levels help predict future fat reserves. They observed that these 2 hormones interact with proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons present in the brain’s hypothalamus. This interaction helps in sending signals that encourage the conversion of white fat (which is stored) into brown fat (which helps in fat burning).

In the laboratory setting, the researchers found that the conversion of white to brown fat was regulated by enzymes called phosphatases. Lowering the levels of phosphatase brought about increased brown fat conversion and fat burning. They found that under normal conditions, this process helped maintain body weight, but in case of obesity caused by a faulty diet, this mechanism was disrupted.

Commenting on these findings, the researchers said, “Eventually, we think we may be able to help people lose weight by targeting these two enzymes. Turning white fat into brown fat is a very exciting new approach to developing weight loss agents.”

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