A group of researchers discovered a type of brain cells that generate appetite when the person has excess energy. In this way, a vicious circle is generated that cannot be escaped and, in turn, causes obesity.
Brain cells that generate appetite and induce obesity.
The study was conducted at the Garvan Institute for Medical Research in Darlinghurst, Australia and published in the journal Cell Metabolism. The team of scientists identified a type of cell that generates appetite. The cells produce a molecule, which is responsible for stimulating appetite. They named these small molecules NPY.
In addition, they stimulate the brain and make it even more sensitive to these same stimuli, generating more hunger. Because of this discovery, experts hope to develop drugs to block these receptor cells in the brain and help with weight loss treatments.
NPYs stimulate the urge to eat
Obesity is one of the biggest public health problems. One in 10 adults in the world suffers from obesity. It affects not only adults, but also children and adolescents. Obesity is not only a condition in itself, but it develops other chronic health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease.
According to researchers, the brain detects the amount of energy stored in the body to adjust appetite. The way it does this is through NPY molecules, which the brain naturally generates when there are stressful situations, such as hunger. These, in turn, stimulate the desire to eat.
On the other hand, when less energy is consumed than expended, the brain generates high levels of NPY. When the energy ingested in food is greater than that expended, appetite decreases. However, if the energy surplus is prolonged (such as excess fat in obesity), these molecules continue to stimulate hunger. A vicious circle from which it is impossible to escape.
During the study, the scientists focused their research on the brain neurons that produced NPY. They found that in obese mice, 15% of these neurons did not stop the production of the molecule, thus generating more appetite. They also discovered that the same brain neurons sensitize other areas of the brain to, in turn, generate more hunger.
The researchers believe that this discovery opens a window to block NPY receptors and fight obesity. In the future, they may be able to deactivate these additional neurons by means of appropriate drugs.
Likewise, knowing better how the brain works and its mechanisms associated with metabolism has its benefits in the future. Especially nowadays, where technology plays a preponderant role in sedentary lifestyles.