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Home > Feature Articles > Health and Well Being Strategies

Overeating and Obesity Triggered by Lack of BDNF

A quarter on the American population has been estimated to carry mutations in the Bdnf gene that affects obesity

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close to one-third of the population in the United States is obese and another third is overweight. Excessive weight gain is elicited by alterations in energy balance, the finely modulated equilibrium between caloric intake and expenditure.

But what are the factors that determine how much food is consumed?

Part of the mystery is unfolding in the laboratory of Maribel Rios, PhD, at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

Rios and colleagues have demonstrated for the first time that a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is critical in mediating satiety in adult mice.

Mice in which the Bdnf gene was deleted in two of the primary appetite-regulating regions of the brain ate more and became significantly heavier than their counterparts.

The obesity exhibited by BDNF-depleted mice appears to arise solely from overconsumption of calories. "Normal body weight was restored in mutant mice when food access was limited to that of normal mice, indicating that deletion of the Bdnf gene in the VMH and DMH does not affect the expenditure side of the energy balance equation," adds Rios.

The researchers confirmed that glucose acts directly in the brain, rather than through peripheral pathways, to increase BDNF expression. "Direct administration of BDNF into the brain,” states Rios, "also led to an immediate increase in the levels of an early-response gene and marker of nerve-cell activation in both the VMH and the DMH. These results suggest that BDNF is a fast-acting signal inducing neuronal activity within neural circuits involved in appetite control.”

She adds that "the relevance of the BDNF signaling pathway in human disease is highlighted by the obesity exhibited by certain humans carrying mutations or abnormalities in the genes coding for BDNF or its receptor. This is bound to be an important area of obesity research as more than a quarter on the American population has been estimated to carry mutations in the Bdnf gene."

This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health. Their findings are published in the December 26 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

SOURCE: Newswise



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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