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Serotonin the Answer for Anti-Obesity Treatment

According to a new research conducted at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center it was found that increased serotonin aids to curb appetite.//

Serotonin is a brain chemical which can be stimulated by various drugs such Fen-phen and other diet drugs. That knowledge could aid in the design of safer anti-obesity drugs nearly a decade after Fen-phen was banned for causing harmful side effects. The study, which tested the effect of several drugs that alter serotonin levels in the brain, found that serotonin activates some neurons and melanocortin-4 receptors, or MC4Rs, to curb appetite and at the same time blocks other neurons that normally act to increase appetite.

The dual effect helps explain how such drugs, including Fen-phen, spur weight loss. The finding, available online and in the July 20 issue of Neuron, also reinforces the role of serotonin – a regulator of emotions, mood and sleep – in affecting the brain's melanocortin system, a key molecular pathway that controls body weight. "The more we understand about the pathways and the way serotonergic drugs regulate body weight, the more it one day might lead to harnessing beneficial properties of anti-obesity treatments like Fen-phen and minimizing the harmful side effects," said Dr. Joel Elmquist, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and co-senior author of the study.

In the United States, about 66 percent of adults are obese or overweight, as are 16 percent of young people aged 6 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The trend is significant because being overweight or obese increases the risk of harmful health consequences, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, non-alcoholic liver disease and death. Drugs that enhance the brain's release of serotonin have helped people lose weight. Fen-phen, which paired fenfluramine with phentermine, had such success. The drug combination, however, also led some patients to develop cardiac
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