Appetite Suppressing Molecule in Dietary Fibre Could Control Weight Gain

A recent study from Imperial College London and Medical Research Council (MRC) has identified an anti-appetite molecule. This molecule is a short chain fatty acid molecule, termed as, acetate. Acetate is released naturally when fibre is digested in gut. It is then transported to brain to produce a signal, which suppresses appetite.

Though dietary fibre is found in cereals, pulses and vegetables but its level is very low in processed food. When dietary fibre is digested in colon, the bacteria present there ferments dietary fibre to release huge amounts of acetate.

During ancient times people used to have high (about 100g/day) fibre diet, because the food used to be raw and less processed. Nowadays our food habits have changed. We prefer low-fibre ready-made meals rather than vegetables, pulses and other sources of fibre. An average diet in Europe today contains about 15 g of fibre/day. Unfortunately our digestive system has not yet evolved to deal with this type of modern diet and this disparity contributes to the current obesity epidemic.

The study was performed in mouse model. Inulin, found in sugar beets was used as a source of dietary fibre. Researchers found that mice fed on a high fat diet with added inulin ate less and gained less weight than mice fed on a high fat diet with no inulin. Further analysis showed that mice fed on a diet containing inulin had a high level of acetate in their guts. Using positron emission tomography (PET) scans, they tracked acetate through the body from colon to liver and heart and showed that it eventually ended up in the hypothalamus region of the brain, which controls hunger.

Furthermore the researchers investigated the effects of acetate in hypothalamus using a highly sophisticated scanning technique called High Resolution Magic Angle Spinning (HR-MAS). The results complemented with the PET scans. It was shown that acetate accumulated in the hypothalamus after fibre has been digested. A series of biochemical events was then triggered in the hypothalamus leading to the firing of pro-opiomelanocortin (POMPC) neurons, which are known to suppress appetite.

In the context of the growing rates of global obesity, these findings could offer potential methods to prevent weight gain. Thus acetate could act as a natural anti-appetite and might lead to new, non-surgical treatments for obesity.



Reference: G. Frost et al. ‘The short-chain fatty acid acetate reduces appetite via a central homeostatic mechanism, Nature Communications (2014), doi: 10.1038/n-comms4611.

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Arunima Maiti

Arunima Maiti

Biomedical scientist with special interest in reproductive biology.

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