Losing weight without suffering hunger pangs is a dream that many of us share. Now, thanks to new findings, it turns out that this concept could actually be possible. A recent study, out of the University of Cincinnati in Ohio has discovered that an amino acid, an essential component in proteins, could stifle your appetite. This could make you eat less without making your tummy rumble.
At first, in the study, researchers were looking at an enzyme (labeled “mTOR”) to see how it interacted with the synthesis of protein molecules in rats. This is how they found the target area — the hypothalamus. The enzyme was active in this section of the brain that plays a part in appetite control in rats (and in humans, too).
So, the researchers decided to see if the same area that responded to mTOR would be affected by a specific amino acid — leucine. This amino acid is found in meats and grains that contain high levels of protein. They injected a single microgram of leucine right into the brains of the rats, in the hypothalamus region. Throughout the day following the injection, the rodent subjects ate five grams less of the food they were given than the rats that had not received the amino acid treatment did (25 g versus 30 g).
The results were even better when the subjects fasted for 24 hours after their injection, and then ate. The rats that had been treated with leucine had only gained four grams of weight in a day, while the control group packed on 12 g. That’s a big difference!
Interesting results, you might think, but what exactly is going on here? Well, remember that amino acids are important building blocks in protein. When protein is broken down in the body from your food, some parts, such as amino acids, are shipped off to the brain.
So, according to the scientists involved in the study, when leucine is injected into the brain, this makes it think that the body has consumed enough fuel (i.e. food). The hypothalamus will then switch off the hunger response, thus telling your body that it is full.
Now, all they have to do is perform a good-quality study on humans, and we could have a new way to control appetite and help obese people lose those unhealthy, extra pounds. Just remember that the study was done with an amino acid injection, so following a diet that is heavy in protein might not achieve the same results.