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Gut feelings: Targeting intestinal taste receptors could help battle obesity, say researchers

By Nathan Gray+

07-Jan-2013
Last updated the 10-Jan-2013 at 17:27 GMT

Targeting intestinal taste receptors could help battle obesity

Targeting taste sensors in the gut could offer the food industry with a ‘new road’ to battling obesity, say researchers.

Targeting malfunctioning taste receptors in the human digestive system could offer a new therapeutic road to battling increasing levels of obesity, according to scientists.

Writing in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, the researchersfrom the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium explain that the gut ‘tastes’ the foods that we consume (bitter, sweet, fat, and savory) in much the same way as the tongue.

Led by Dr Sara Janssen and Dr Inge Depoortere, the research team suggest that these receptors – which use similar signalling mechanisms to oral taste receptors – could be a new target for the fight against obesity.

“It is tempting to speculate that obesity and diabetes could be treated by selective targeting of nutrient sensors on endocrine cells to release satiety hormones that are often co-stored in conjunction with insulin from the pancreas, thereby mimicking the physiological effects of a meal and fooling the body that it has eaten,” write the researchers.

They add that because the release of satiating hormones that control food intake is dependent on the nutritional status, targeting such chemosensory mechanisms could provide a new way to fight fat.

“In health, these nutrient sensors are likely to function as inhibitors to excessive nutrient exposure, and their malfunction may be responsible for a variety of metabolic dysfunctions associated with obesity; they may thus be considered as new therapeutic targets.”

"Targeting extraoral taste receptors that affect the release of hormones that control food intake may offer a new road to mimic these effects in a nonsurgical manner," Dr Depoortere said.

Bitter potential?

The research team noted that while much progress has been achieved in the development of FFAR ligand, which may help battle type 2 diabetes, the role of bitter taste receptors in the gut in appetite control “is a new field that deserves further investigation.”

“Future studies will show which of these and other gut nutrient receptors prove to be … targets for the treatment and prevention of obesity and diabetes,” they said.

Source: Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2012.11.006
“Nutrient sensing in the gut: new roads to therapeutics?”
Authors: Sara Janssen, Inge Depoortere

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