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According to current research, a special hormone has an important influence on individual preferences for sweets and alcohol. The research team around Dr. Steven Kliewer, professor of molecular biology and pharmacology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, found that the hormone FGF21 (Fibroblast growth factor 21), which is produced in the liver, influences mammals' preferences for alcohol and sugar. The scientists have published their results in the journal "Cell Metabolism".
The liver hormone works through the brain's reward system and can significantly reduce the craving for sweets and alcohol in mammals, according to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The researchers hope that their results will contribute to the development of drugs for alcohol addiction and obesity. Because of the unique effects of FGF21, forms of the protein are already being evaluated as possible drugs for the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes, report Kliewer and colleagues. The current findings show that the possible uses of medicines based on the liver hormone may be even more extensive than previously thought.
Penchant for alcohol and sugar fades
In their studies, the researchers used mice and primates to examine the effect of an elevated FGF21 level on the preference for sugar and alcohol. In addition, she evaluated the dopamine release in the animal's brain. As a neurotransmitter, dopamine plays a central role in the reward system. "We found that an increased release of FGF21 significantly reduced the preference for sweets and alcohol in mice and reduced the preference for sweets in primates," reports co-author Dr. David Mangelsdorf. To ensure that FGF21 works through the brain's reward system, the scientists tested what happens when the co-receptor β-clotho in the central nervous system of the mice is switched off. If this co-receptor is not present, FGF21 cannot work. An absence of the co-receptor in the central nervous system meant that there was no change in taste preference.
Effect through the reward system in the brain
According to the researchers, an elevated level of the liver hormone leads to a reduction in the dopamine concentration in the brain region of the nucleus accumbens, which means that the reward system is less stimulated and the preference for sugar and alcohol diminishes. "Our results show that FGF21 affects nutritional preferences and other reward-related behaviors in humans, and that the hormone could potentially be used to treat alcoholism," emphasizes Prof. Dr. Kliewer. However, further studies are needed to assess the effects of FGF21 on the preference for sweets and alcohol and other reward behavior in humans. (fp)