Appetite-controlling brain cells identified in new study

Sept. 27 (UPI) — Scientists at the University of Warwick, in England, have identified brain cells key to appetite control. The discovery, detailed this week in the journal Molecular Metabolism, could revolutionize dieting.

Researchers found brain cells called tanycytes react with amino acids found in food. The cells, found in the part of the brain that controls energy levels, use the same receptors that sense flavors in the tongue’s taste buds.

Tanycytes receive information from the amino acids about the food a person has just consumed. The cells react most readily with the amino acids arginine and lysine. Scientists hypothesize these reactions make a person feel more full.

Foods rich in arginine and lysine include pork shoulder, beef sirloin steak, chicken, mackerel, plums, apricots, avocadoes, lentils and almonds — all of which will satiate the consumer more quickly.

In the lab, researchers added fluorescent markers to arginine and lysine and added them to brain cells. The markers revealed chemical activity when the amino acids interacted with tanycytes, brain cells previously linked with appetite and weight.

When researchers blocked umami taste receptors in the brain cells, the tanycytes were not able to receive information from the amino acids.

“Amino acid levels in blood and brain following a meal are a very important signal that imparts the sensation of feeling full,” Warwick neuroscientist Ted Pridgeon said in a news release. “Finding that tanycytes, located at the center of the brain region that controls body weight, directly sense amino acids has very significant implications for coming up with new ways to help people to control their body weight within healthy bounds.”

The research suggests dieters would do well to eat more foods rich in arginine, lysine and other amino acids that encourage the feeling of being full. The findings could also inspire new drugs and supplements to help suppress appetite in patients prone to overeating.


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