Posted on Nov 23, 2016, 6 a.m.
High protein diets curb appetites through a boost of phenylalanine.
High protein diets such as the Atkins Diet have been proven to help in weight loss for some time. Now researchers have discovered the mechanism between protein and weight control which may lead to new strategies for the prevention and treatment of obesity. In previous studies, high protein levels found in animal foods like milk, eggs, chicken, and fish can aid in weight reduction by suppressing appetite. By uncovering processes by which protein curbs appetite, researchers are a step closer to developing new weight control strategies.
Amino Acid Phenylalanine Responsible for Weightloss
In a new study from the Imperial College London, researchers have discovered an amino acid called phenylalanine which is responsible for the digestion of protein. Phenylalanine boosts certain hormone levels that send signals to the brain telling us that we are full. This may be why high protein diets are successful in suppressing hunger, but sticking to a high protein diet like all diets can be difficult.
In the study, researchers experimented on mice and rats. The rodents were divided into two groups. One group was given doses of phenylalanine. They compared the results against the group of rodents not given the amino acid. These were the results of the group given phenylalanine:
- increased levels of hormone GLP-1
- reduced levels of hormone Ghrelin
- reduced appetite and weight loss
The hormone GLP-1 is known to suppress hunger, and the hormone Ghrelin is known to increase hunger. Phenylalanine helped to reduced the food intake of the rodents and contributed to measured weight loss. The rats were more physically active which may have contributed to their weight reduction. Over a 7-day period, the team gave regular doses of phenylalanine to obese mice. All the mice reduced their weight.
Receptor CaSR also Suppresses Appetite
Researchers are hard at work trying to understand how phenylalanine changes the levels of the hormones GLP-1 and Ghrelin. Another experiment was performed that mixed phenylalanine and gut cells. Researchers found that phenylalanine targets a receptor called CaSR which increased levels of GLP-1 and decreased levels of Ghrelin. The team is the first to demonstrate that activating the receptor CaSR does help to reduce appetite in animals.
In the United States, 2 in 3 adults are considered to be obese and obesity has become a major health concern. Obesity puts people at greater risk of health issues like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. This study may give a boost in new strategies to deal with the obesity epidemic. The search is now on to find new drugs and compounds in food that stimulate CaSR in the endeavor to treat and prevent obesity. Further studies though are required to explain exactly how phenylalanine curbs hunger, and whether or not the same results can be replicated in human trials.