Researchers discovered for the first time ever that a hormone controls our cravings for sweets and alcohol. The hormone FGF21 (fibroblast growth factor 21) is produced by the liver.
Despite being produced in the liver, FGF21 is using our brain’s reward-related centers by controlling the production of dopamine.
According to the researchers, the discovery could have dramatic effects on reducing alcoholism, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
The findings, analyzed by a research team at the UT Southwest Medical Center were published in Cell Metabolism journal.
FGF21 hormone is produced in the liver of all mammals when they consume carbohydrates but its production is also influenced by environmental factors causing stress, such as exposure to cold temperature and extreme dietary changes.
Professor in Pharmacology and Molecular Biology, Dr. Steven Kliewer who is also a co-author of the study argues that their findings could be a tremendous discovery for treating alcoholism and obesity. The FDF21 could be administrated to alcoholic people who could find it easier to renounce drinking if the hormone would stop their cravings. More than that, it could change the face of alcoholism forever if the dopamine in their brain wouldn’t be activating the reward-centers asking for more, making it possible for alcoholics to stop after one glass of wine, without having to stay away from drinking all of their lives.
Co-author Dr. David Mangelsdorf, Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Chair of the Pharmacology Department explains that the mice trials have shown a decrease in sweet and alcohol preference when FGF21 was administered, while larger animal models have shown a decrease in sweet preference.
FGF21 is functioning by interacting with the co-receptor β-Klotho. To test if FGF21 is indeed acting via a brain pathway, researchers have tested the hormone in mice lacking the co-receptor β-Klotho from their central nervous system. The tests revealed that the preference for alcohol and sweets remained unchanged by the mice injected with FGF21 but without β-Klotho.
Mangelsdorf and Kliewer have been studying FGF21 for a long time. This is their forth study which shows the effects of the hormone upon the nervous central system. Two years ago they have studied the impact of FGF21 on metabolism, circadian behavior and female reproduction. Last year they have studied the impact of FGF21 upon the brain cells, arguing that it can cause weight loss.
As a result of the current test, researchers hope that FGF21 pills will soon be developed to help people treat obesity, alcoholism and diabetes.
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