Hot chillies could help tackle obesity

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Ever had that feeling that you can’t just stop eating? Researchers have revealed that feeling of ‘fullness’ may be impaired because of high-fat diet that block TRPV1 – a key receptor that tells us to stop eating.

Scientists at University of Adelaide have discovered that high-fat diet may impair this important receptors located in the stomach that signal fullness. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, investigates the association between hot chilli pepper receptors (TRPV1) in the stomach and the feeling of fullness, in laboratory studies.

The mechanism behind the feeling of fullness goes like this: when you eat, the stomach stretches and when its full, this stretching activates nerves in the stomach that tell our body that it has had enough and there is no room for more.

This particular nerve activation is regulated through hot chilli pepper or TRPV1 receptors says Associate Professor Amanda Page, Senior Research Fellow in the University of Adelaide’s School of Medicine and lead author on the paper.

Researchers have known for some time now that capsaicin, which is found in hot chillies, reduces food intake in humans. The latest study found that deletion or impairment of TRPV1 receptors dampens the response of gastric nerves to stretch – resulting in a delayed feeling of fullness and the consumption of more food.

This means that part of the effect of capsaicin on food intake may be mediated via the stomach. And latest study has also indicated that TRPV1 receptors can be disrupted in high fat diet induced obesity.

Dr Stephen Kentish is optimistic that their results will pave way for future studies and ultimately development of new therapies against obesity.

“It’s exciting that we now know more about the TRPV1 receptor pathway and that the consumption of capsaicin may be able to prevent overeating through an action on nerves in the stomach,” says Dr Kentish, National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Fellow from the University of Adelaide’s School of Medicine.

“The next stage of research will involve investigation of the mechanisms behind TRPV1 receptor activation with the aim of developing a more palatable therapy.”

“We will also do further work to determine why a high-fat diet de-sensitises TRPV1 receptors and investigate if we can reverse the damage,” he says.