New obesity drugs will tell the brain that enough is enough

If you find you just can't stop eating, don't be so hard on yourself. You're the product of a few million years of evolution and, for most of that time, Kentucky Fried Chicken has not been readily available. Our bodies are hard-wired to eat what it can, whenever it can, in as large a portion as possible. However, just in the past decade, scientists are beginning to understand that the hormones produced in our gut during digestion not only break down our food, but some send signals to the brain to tell it that it's had enough food and it's time to stop. If researchers can find a way to put these discoveries in a bottle, they can develop effective anti-obesity drugs, according to an article in the Guardian.

"It is a simple fact that some people crave food more than others," Alasdair Mackenzie, of Aberdeen University, tells the Guardian. "It is not addiction. It is just that some people, when they start eating, find it a lot easier to stop. Finding what is going on, and uncovering the precise biochemical mechanisms involved, is proving to be highly enlightening."

In one avenue of research, Waljit Dhillo, at Imperial College, London, tells about how researchers are isolating two messengers released by the intestines linked to appetite suppression--that message that tells the brain, "enough food, already!" One is Glucagon-like peptide-1, or GLP-1, and the second is Peptide YY, or PYY. Dhillo and colleagues had a group of adults fast for 12 hours, then hooked them up to brain monitors and showed them pictures of food. The parts of the brain that indicated interest in food lit up like Tokyo after dark.

"Then we gave them an infusion of GLP-1 and PYY and again showed them the pictures of food," Dhillo told the Guardian. "Their brains did not light up nearly so much. In other words, they were less stimulated by the sight of food. They had lost their hunger. Essentially, PYY and GLP-1 suppressed their appetites."

Dhillo pictures a future where people are injected with gut hormones and, while they will still wake up hungry, they will not eat as much.

- read the story in the Guardian

Special Report: Obesity drugs: Where are we now?