Can we stop hunger with natural fat in diet?

September 10, 2003 in Nutrition Topics in the News

Can we stop hunger with natural fat in diet?

Scientists have found clues to how a naturally occurring fat compound blocks hunger, which could pave the way for a new class of safer anti-obesity drugs.

In a study published last week, scientists at the University of California at Irvine said they had shown how the fatty acid oleylethanolamide (OEA)--found naturally in the diet--bonds with cells to send the body a signal to stop eating.

The researchers fed high-fat diets to two groups of mice: one normal and one mutant group that had had cell receptors that interact with OEA removed. After the mice were fattened up, they were treated with OEA for four weeks.

Normal mice ate less and lost weight with the treatment, but it had no effect on the mice that had their cell receptors removed--suggesting that cell receptors play a key role in how the fat communicates to the body to stop eating. In the normal mice, OEA also lowered cholesterol levels by reducing levels of hunger-inducing nitric oxide molecules.

This shows the receptors are not only necessary for the hunger-curbing and weight-reducing actions of OEA, but may also contribute to the overall stability and maintenance of our feeding system, the researchers said. Drugs that are now being tested for obesity work in similar ways, but they are potentially more toxic than naturally occurring OEA, she said.

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