New Weight Loss Study Proving Weight Loss Is In The Mind, Specifically In The Opioid Receptors

By Mo Mozuch on August 1, 2012 6:01 PM EDT

photo:reuters
photo:reuters

A new study published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology uncovered a link between opioid receptors in the brain and the way the body digests fats and sugars. Researchers theorize that people could lose weight off of a high-fat, high-sugar diet, the most common diet in America.  Researchers from the United States and Europe have found that blocking one of three opioid receptors in mice reduced their body weight despite being fed a diet high in fat and sugar. The scientists deleted the gene for the delta opioid receptor, or DOR, which resulted in an increased expression of genes in fatty tissues that generate heat, i.e., burn calories.

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"Our study provided further evidence that opioid receptors can control the metabolic response to diets high in fat and sugar, and raise the possibility that these gene products (or their respective pathways) can be targeted specifically to treat excess weight and obesity," said Traci A. Czyzyk, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Physiology at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Scientists created two groups of mice for the experiment, one with the DOR blocked and one without. The mice were fed the same high-fat, high-sugar diets for three months. The mice with a normal DOR gained significantly more weight than the other mice. The secret lies in the thermogenesis, or heat-producing, genes found in brown adipose tissue. Brown adipose tissue is a special type of fat tissue found in mammals. It is different form normal fat tissue in color, normal fat tissue is white, and brown adipose tissue has significantly higher levels of mitochondrion. It is primarily found in newborns, where it plays a key role in preventing hypothermia.

This is not the first time researchers have found a link between weight loss and brown adipose tissue. A 2009 New England Journal of Medicine article found that the thermogenesis triggered by cold temperatures could be used to increase body metabolism.  The goal of both research teams is to provide science that could potentially lead to a new diet pill.

"Don't reach for the ice cream and doughnuts just yet," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "We don't know how all this works in humans, and of course, a diet of junk food causes other health problems. This exciting research identifies genes that activate brown adipose tissue to increase our burning of calories from any source. It may lead to a safe diet pill in the future."

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