Scientists The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have identified a brain hormone that appears to trigger fat burning in the gut. This could lead to a whole new class of fat loss supplements or drugs, with fewer or no side effects.
Some believe that they may have found a new and approach to fighting the obesity epidemic.
The new discovery was made through a somewhat bizarre source. The researchers used roundworms known as C. elegans, which are often used as model organisms in biology.
The roundworms are said to have the same signaling molecules as humans, including the brain-gut axis that facilitates two-way communication between the brain and the gut. Scientists believe the findings may be relevant to humans although the worms are much simpler anatomically.
Of particular interest in this study was a neurotransmitter associated with fat burning, serotonin. This important chemical, along with another known as norepinephrine, regulates a number of things including appetite control, mood, behavior, and arousal/activity.
Brain neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine, play an important role in the central nervous control of energy balance and are involved in symptomatology related to both obesity and depression. Therefore both serotonin and norepinephrine neural pathways have been paid a special attention as targets for the antiobesity drugs, antidepressants, and drugs used in the treatment of eating disorders. (Source: PubMed)
Next came the elimination phase. The researchers deleted genes in C. elegans to find the gene which one caused fat burning, eliminating those that did not. They came across a gene that makes a hormone that they named FLP-7 (pronounced “flip 7”).
Boosting levels of FLP-7 produced fat loss, without notable side effects or change in food intake in roundworms. FLP-7 was produced in the brain in response to elevated serotonin levels. It then travelled through the circulatory system to start the fat burning process in the gut.
Encouragingly, FLP-7 has a mammalian and therefore human version called Tachykinin.
How Can You Boost Your Serotonin Levels?
The researchers admit that we are far away from seeing an FLP-7 pill, and much more research is needed. But how can you boost your serotonin levels to possibly gain similar benefits?
You may be able boost your serotonin levels naturally by eating foods with tryptophan (you cannot get serotonin directly from food). However, the amount you can get from food is rather miniscule. What about supplements?
Well, taking 5-HTP (5-hydroxy tryptophan) or L-tryptophan supplement may help boost serotonin levels. Your body converts 5-HTP into serotonin. 5-HTP is said to offer stronger serotonin support than L-tryptophan.