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Junk diet makes mice eat more

6th October 2008

People who eat foods high in sugar and fat may trigger a system in the brain which prompts them to consume even more food, researchers in the United States say.

donutsanddieting

Experiments in mice showed that when certain brain signals, which include a protein linked to inflammation, were blocked, the mice maintained a normal weight.

Writing in the journal Cell, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said the latest obesity-related "pathway" is linked to the body's immune system, and to inflammatory responses connected to its defence systems.

Some experts have warned that the findings may not lead to an effective anti-obesity drug because they are so bound up with the immune system.

A series of recent studies into the controls governing human metabolism, appetite and fat reserves in the body have revealed a subject of great complexity.

No treatment for obesity, which is linked to a number of serious diseases, has yet been found.

Scientists investigating "metabolic inflammation", a chronic, low-level condition, have repeatedly found a link to obesity.

In the US study, mice that were given a high fat, high sugar diet were found to have switched on a protein connected to inflammatory reactions.

Once the switch was turned on, the mice started eating even more, suggesting a link to brain functions governing food intake.

The protein was also found in the hypothalamus of the mice. The hypothalamus is known to be involved in the regulation of the body's energy usage.

Another group of mice which had been genetically altered to block this pathway, however, were able to maintain a healthy weight, even with a high fat diet available.

Team leader Cai Dongsheng said the findings could pave the way for research and development into possible anti-obesity drugs.

This would involve identifying a selective and effective suppressor of the pathway to target related neurons.

But Nottingham-based expert Fran Ebling said the study, while interesting, could lead to drugs which interfered with the human immune system.

Other potential targets might prove more fruitful, he added.

 

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