News Stories

Magic Bullets

Diets and diet pills affect our bodies, when the problem is really in our brains. But now, for everyone who has despaired of ever losing weight, scientists have discovered two "magic bullets" that work on our brain circuits. One helps you stop smoking and cuts your bad cholesterol too (the perfect drug!), while the other one works by using a hormone inside your own fat to rewire your brain so you're not hungry.

Researcher Shirly Pinto discovered that leptin, a hormone found in fat that helps regulate weight, changes the wiring of the brain in order to regulate hunger, which is why fat people still get hungry. Co-researcher Jeffrey Friedman says, "This is a very dynamic effect that's quite dramatic and somewhat surprising. In response to leptin, the cells create new connections?The brain's wiring may be different in lean versus obese individuals." If we learn how to adjust our leptin levels, we may become less hungry and more able to lose weight.

Researcher Robert Anthenelli discovered a drug called rimonabant that works on the brain by blocking the circuits that control the urge to eat and smoke. He says, "We think this might be the ideal compound for people who are overweight and smoke."

The drug blocks the brain system that regulates hunger, as well as cravings for cigarettes, alcohol and drugs (Marijuana stimulates this circuitry, which is why it makes people so hungry). The new drug also cuts levels of harmful cholesterol.

Since people who stop smoking tend to gain weight, researcher Ian Campbell says, "A drug which could tackle both problems would represent a fantastic opportunity."

There's a lot we don't understand about our bodies, such as what happens to us after death.

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