Our waistlines seem to be ever expanding with 64% of adults in the UK classified as being obese or overweight. This leads to many major health problems such as an increased risk of developing diabetes– with the number of diagnosed cases greater than 3.2 million in the UK alone. One of the major culprits to blame is the nation’s love of both sugar and alcohol.
A study published in Cell Metabolism on Christmas day could help tackle the problem head on. The researchers showed the first evidence of a liver derived hormone, known as FGF21, which specifically regulates the intake of sugars and alcohol.
The team took two groups of genetically modified mice – one group which had abnormally high levels of FGF21 and the other group had abnormally low levels. Those with high levels chose to reduce their sugar intake whereas those with low levels chose to have much higher sugar intakes,
Additionally, according to a separate study at the University of Texas, when monkeys were given a synthetic version of the hormone they adopted a lower sugar diet and also consumed less alcohol than monkeys which were not given the compound.
The team showed the hormone is produced in response to high carbohydrate levels, then it enters the blood and signals to the brain to supress sugar intake. In people, blood levels of FGF21 triple 24 hours after a spike in blood sugar levels.
However premature celebration of the findings is cautioned – one of the senior authors Kliewer warned : ‘it’s important to keep in mind that these reward behaviours are closely tied to mood, and so additional studies to determine if FGF21 causes depression are certainly warranted’.
Future avenues for investigation of the group include researching whether additional hormones exist to regulate appetite for specific macronutrients like fat.