Liver hormone can decrease appetite for sweets, alcohol

Two separate studies published in Cell Metabolism showed that FGF21 (or fibroblast growth factor 21), a liver-derived hormone, regulates consumption and represses appetite for simple sweets and alcohol.

“This is the first liver-derived hormone we know that regulates sugar intake specifically,” said Matthew Potthoff of the University of Iowa.

The research he led with Matthew Gillum, from the University of Copenhagen, carried experiments on mice to see how FGF21 regulates intake of sugar and alcohol.

“We never imagined that a circulating, liver-derived factor would exist whose function is to control sweet appetite,” Gillum said.

Results indicated that in response to sugar consumption, the liver produces FGF21 which enters the bloodstream and sends signal to hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for food intake regulation and energy homeostasis.

“In addition to identifying these neural pathways, we would like to see if additional hormones exist to regulate appetite for specific macronutrients like fat and protein, comparable to the effects of FGF21 on carbohydrate intake,” Potthoff added.

The other study, led by Steven Kliewer and David Mangelsdorf of the University of Texas, conducted experiment on monkeys.

The monkeys were given a single dose of FGF21 and the monkeys lost interest in sweet water.

Same result was observed in alcohol but there were no effects when it comes to fatty acids or bitter taste.
A study from 50 years ago indicated that the liver had an important role in regulating people’s food intake and preferences; and that variation in the FGF21 gene sequence affects people’s preferences for macronutrients. However, these two new studies led to the discovery of how FGF21 actually works.

If FGF21 could suppress sweet intake, further research could lead to harnessing this hormone to treat obesity and type 2 diabetes.

However, Kliewer noted with caution that “while at first blush it would seem that this FGF21-regulated pathway could be a panacea for suppressing sugar and alcohol consumption, it’s important to keep in mind that these reward behaviors are closely tied to mood, and so additional studies to determine if FGF21 causes depression are certainly warranted.” Dana M. Sioson with a Medical News Today report

Vital Signs August 2016