Food component that reduces hunger may hold key in fight against obesity

Phenylalanine – a component of dietary protein – reduces food intake by affecting the release of appetite-regulating hormones in the gut, research shows. 

Experts believe that it may be the reason why diets that involve eating a lot of protein can be successful at promoting weight loss. 

However, high-protein diets such as Atkins and Dukan can be hard to maintain and may result in long-term health problems, it is claimed. 

The amino acid Phenylalanine is generated in the gut when protein is digested and has previously been shown to reduce appetite in rodents.  

To investigate its effects, scientists at Imperial College London studied the brain activity and eating habits of mice treated with the chemical. 

Phenylalanine was found to reduce food intake even at a dose 10 times lower than would be consumed daily as part of a high-protein diet. 

It also increased activation of an area of the brain known to be involved in regulating appetite. 

Lead researcher Mariana Norton said: “The next step is to establish whether Phenylalanine can drive similar appetite-reducing effects in humans. 

"Identifying the mechanisms that sense the protein may allow us to use drugs or functional foods to hijack appetite regulation – and treat obesity.” 



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