New research has identified specific brain cells that control how much sugar you eat and how hungry you are for sweet foods.
Most people enjoy sweets from time to time. However, unchecked “sweets” can lead to excessive consumption of sugary foods and chronic health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Understanding the biological mechanisms that control sugar intake and preference for sweetness may have important implications for controlling and preventing these health problems.
The new research is led by Dr. Matthew Potthoff, associate professor of neuroscience and pharmacology at Carver University in Iowa, and Dr. Matthew Gillum at Copenhagen University in Denmark. The research focuses on the action of a hormone called fibroblast growth. Factor 21 (FGF21). This hormone is known to play a role in energy balance, weight control and insulin sensitivity.
This is the first study to truly identify where this hormone works in the brain, and provides very cool insights into how to regulate sugar intake. “
Matthew Potthoff, a member of the Eagle Diabetes Brotherhood Research Center at UI and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute
Potthoff and his colleagues previously discovered that FGF21 is made in the liver in response to elevated sugar levels and plays a role in the brain to suppress sugar intake and preference for sweetness.
Based on this discovery, the team now shows for the first time which brain cells respond to FGF21 signaling and how this interaction helps regulate sugar intake and sweetness preferences. The study was published in the journal Cell metabolism, Also revealed how hormones mediate their effects.
Although FGF21 is known to function in the brain, because hormone receptors are expressed at very low levels, it is difficult to “see”, so determining the exact cellular target becomes complicated. Using various techniques, the researchers were able to accurately identify which cells express the FGF21 receptor. By studying these cells, studies have shown that FGF21 targets glutamatergic neurons in the brain to reduce sugar intake and sweet taste preference. The researchers also showed that the effect of FGF21 on specific neurons in the hypothalamus of the peritoneum reduces sugar intake by enhancing the sensitivity of neurons to glucose.
Several drugs based on modified forms of FGF21 have been tested as treatments for obesity and diabetes. The new discovery may cause the new drug to more precisely target the different behaviors controlled by FGF21, which may help control how much sugar a person eats.
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