Scientists at Johns Hopkins University report they are one step closer to finding a way U to control least in mice.

By injecting a specific compound into the rodents' brains, researchers say they can alter certain brain chemicals to decrease appetite.

The compound, called C75, blocks fatty acid synthase (FAS), the process by which new fat is generated from consumed carbohydrates.

How It Works

M. Daniel Lane, a distinguished service professor in the department of biological chemistry at Johns Hopkins, and his colleagues found C75 blocks the production of ghrelin, an appetite stimulant. Ghrelin is produced in the brain and the stomach.

To test their theory, Lane's team injected ghrelin into the mice. As expected, the ghrelin injection reversed the effect of C75.

Will It Work?

Although it has not been tested in humans, Lane believes that C75 or a similar compound could be used to reduce appetite. "But that's way out in the future," he says. For now, diet and exercise may be better options for losing weight.

Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, agrees. "The tantalizing lure of a 'silver bullet' to prevent weight gain and treat obesity propagates irrepressible hope among the public at large and scientific researchers alike," he says. "To date, such hopes have consistently been dashed."

Katz suggests people be cautious about any drug for weight control. "To turn off the physiologic mechanisms that favor weight gain "is tantamount to shutting down much that is fundamental to human metabolism," he says.

"We already own the solution to obesity-increase daily calorie output above daily calorie intake. There will likely never be a medication as supportive of overall good health as the combination of healthful, portion-controlled eating and regular physical activity," Katz stresses.

Perhaps a C75 derivative will one day be one of the weapons used to combat obesity and its consequences, Katz says. But there's "no need to hold our breath and wait."

Don't Blame Yourself

Failure to keep off lost weight may not be due to lack of will. Weight loss caused by caloric restriction increases production of ghrelin, a hormone produced in the stomach that is a powerful appetite stimulant.

In addition, other complex biological changes can occur that contribute to an increased drive to eat.

Self-defense: Compensate for increased hunger by eating low-density foods. These fill you up but have relatively few calories.

Examples: Cantaloupe, strawberries, lettuce, celery and broth.

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