Want to lose weight, but always hungry? Research suggests a way to help obese people feel full while eating less
- The most effective way to lose weight is to eat less, but obese people often have trouble regulating their diets as they lose their sense of fullness
- A study led by Hong Kong researchers found an enzyme that plays a big role in making us feel full, which could be the target of a drug for managing obesity
Researchers have identified a mechanism that could unlock the treatment of obesity by making overweight people feel full.
Led by a team at Hong Kong Baptist University, they discovered an enzyme that plays an important role in the process of sating appetite and said drugs could be developed that target it to manage obesity.
The most effective way to tackle obesity is to eat less, but obese people often have trouble regulating their dietary habits, as they lose their sense of satiety, or fullness, the research paper noted.
Scientists led by Dr Xavier Wong Hoi-leong and Professor Bian Zhaoxiang identified the enzyme which can regulate satiety signals in the brain to help regulate food intake, named membrane-type 1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP).
Wong said the research findings established MT1-MMP’s role in regulating satiety, and gave indications that it is a promising target for obesity treatment. Using drugs to inhibit MT1-MMP could be a viable strategy for developing effective treatments.
The global research team also included scientists from the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of Texas and the University of Helsinki.
The scientists created a group of obese mice by feeding them a fat-rich diet while depleting MT1-MMP in their satiety neurons, and fed the same diet to a control group of ordinary mice.
After 16 weeks, the mice with depleted MT1-MMP ate 10 per cent less food, gained 50 per cent less weight, and had lower glucose and plasma insulin levels compared to the control group.
The results show that depletion of MT1-MMP protects mice against obesity when they consume a high-fat diet.
The next step was to explore the potential of targeting MT1-MMP with drugs for obesity management. Lab tests in obese mice found that they ate less after being administered a specific neutralising antibody that inhibits MT1-MMP.
The results suggest that MT1-MMP is a potential target that could be used in developing innovative drug treatments for obesity.
Professor Martin Wong, a non-communicable disease expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said: “This has to do with eating and physical habits. People are more inactive, live a sedentary lifestyle with no exercise. During the Covid-19 pandemic, people stayed home most of the time.”