Obesity has become one of the most endemic causes of health problems for both children and adults in America, but according to a new study, a possible solution might just be at hand.
Researchers from the Harvard Medical School and Edinburgh University have discovered the particular part of the brain that influences the sensation of hunger.
They believe that by targeting the brain circuit called melanoncortin 4 receptor-regulated (MC4R) using weight loss drugs, it can help people control their feeling of hunger and regulate their weight.
The researchers conducted an experiment wherein they altered the MC4R in a group of laboratory mice. They observed a significant change in the amount of food the mice consumed, indicating that the animals' desire to eat had been altered.
According to Bradford Lowell, senior author of the research, the reason why people have a difficult time in staying on a diet is because of the unpleasant feeling stemming from strong hunger drive.
He said that the results of their study show that the MC4R brain circuit can be artificially activated to trigger a pleasurable sensation and reduce the feeling of hunger.
"Turning on the [group of MC4R brain cells] had the same effect as dieting, but because it directly reduced hunger drive, it did not cause the gnawing feelings of discomfort that often come with dieting," Lowell said.
Lowell and his colleagues also tried to switch off the MC4R through the use of drugs. They discovered that the alteration made the mice eat more even when they had already eaten.
Despite the findings featured in their paper, the researchers noted that studies involving animals does not guarantee similar results for humans.
As of the moment, there are no known drugs available that can offer an effective way to manage appetite. Experts in nutrition, however, recommend eating foods that provide a feeling of being full for longer periods.
"Key components of highly satisfying foods are protein and fiber," Clinical Nutrition Director Rebecca Solomon from Mount Sinai Beth Israel, explained during an interview.
Solomon suggested eating a combination of fiber and protein in order to feel full.
The Harvard Medical School and Edinburgh University is published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Photo: Global Panorama | Flickr