Lipocalin-2, a hormone that suppresses hunger in humans, could be used to treat obesity: Study
Obesity not only impairs movement but also increases the risks of many chronic and potentially disabling diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and kidney disease
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions all over the world. It not only impairs movement but also increases the risks of many chronic and potentially disabling diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and kidney disease. Many people with obesity find it difficult to control their eating habits or stick to a strict exercise and diet regimen to reduce their weight, which leads to further slowing of their metabolism and subsequent negative outcomes.
In such cases, medications that curb hunger and help reduce weight by 5-10 percent are given to patients. But these drugs have major side effects and cannot be used in the long term. Bariatric surgery may be recommended to the patients who are at high risk of complications due to obesity, but the surgery also has many side effects and can be difficult and expensive to manage. The search for a viable obesity treatment with minimum side effects is the need of the hour and researchers across the world are focusing on solving this problem.
A hormone that regulates appetite and metabolism
A new study published in the journal eLife presents an opportunity to control and reduce obesity by regulating a hormone called lipocalin-2 (LCN2). LCN2 is an endogenous hormone produced in mice and primates including humans. It is secreted by osteoblasts in the bones. Previous studies indicate that LCN2 can not only suppress hunger and send out satiety signals but also reduce body weight and improve sugar metabolism. However, these studies were done on mice and it remained unclear whether humans and other primates experience a similar reaction to LCN2.
To examine if LCN2 has a similar effect on humans and primates, the researchers conducted a double study - one on humans and one on other primates. For the human study, the researchers analysed data collected from four separate studies including healthy individuals with normal weight, overweight individuals, obese individuals and severely obese individuals. All the participants were given a meal after an overnight fast and their metabolic biomarkers were evaluated.
The researchers examined the results of each study and found that there was a significant increase in circulating LCN2 levels after a meal in humans with a normal weight. This increase in LCN2 levels correlates with a drop in hunger sensation in healthy, normal weight individuals. On the other hand, individuals who are overweight, obese and severely obese experienced a decrease in the levels of LCN2 after having the meal. This shows that LCN2 plays a major role in regulating hunger and satiety and contributes to obesity in those who don’t secrete this hormone properly.
Using LCN2 to regulate hunger and satiety
So, the researchers next wondered, can treatment with LCN2 improve the metabolism of those who are overweight or obese? To evaluate this, the researchers embarked on the second study into primates like baboons and rhesus macaques. These primates were divided into two groups - one was given LCN2 and the other saline. After two rounds of this treatment, each lasting a week, the researchers found that the group of primates treated with LCN2 had a 28% reduction in food intake compared to the start of the study. Compared to the saline-treated group, the LCN2-treated group experienced a 21% reduction in food intake.
What’s more, the researchers found that the LCN2-treated group of primates also experienced a decline in their body weight, body fat and blood lipid levels during this trial period. There were no toxic side effects to LCN2 injections in the primates, which is another promising finding. Combined together, the two studies conducted by these researchers indicate that treatment with LCN2 may be a viable option for people with obesity without leading to any toxicity or side effects. The researchers state that larger and well-controlled studies in the future should further establish the efficacy of this promising treatment for obesity.
For more information, read our article on Obesity.
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