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UM School of Medicine scientists find hormone influences sensitivity to sweetness
Date:6/15/2010

A hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar levels may also influence a person's sensitivity to sweet-tasting foods, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. They found that blocking the tongue's ability to respond to the hormone known as glucagon decreases the taste system's sensitivity to sweetness. That is, changing the actions of the hormone glucagon could control how foods taste, according to the study published online June 14 in the Federation for American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal.

"An interesting possibility resulting from our research is that the development of new food additives could change the way you perceive your food, making it taste more or less sweet," said senior author Steven D. Munger, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "From a food industry perspective, such additives could be used to enhance flavor. From a therapeutic perspective, they could be used to treat patients who under-eat or overeat."

Glucagon, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, acts in opposition to insulin. Glucagon raises blood glucose levels, while insulin lowers those levels. Dr. Munger and his colleagues found that glucagon and its receptor are expressed in mouse taste receptor cells that are associated with the detection of sugars and sweetness. The scientists also found that blocking glucagon's actions using a specific drug made mice less responsive to a sweet solution they were offered. Mice are often used as models for humans in such research, since the mechanisms that regulate taste are similar in both species. "The data suggest that a person's susceptibility to sweetness might have to do with their metabolic state or nutritional needs," says Dr. Munger.

Funding for the study came from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) and the National Institute on
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Contact: Karen Buckelew
kbuckelew@som.umaryland.edu
410-706-7590
University of Maryland Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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