A liver hormone that works via brain to reduce cravings for sweets and alcohol in mammals has been discovered by scientists. The team found that a hormone produced by the liver - fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) - suppresses the consumption of simple sugars.
Steven Kliewer, professor of molecular biology and pharmacology at UT Southwestern medical center and co-senior author of the study, said, "This is the first time a hormone made in the liver has been shown to affect sugar and alcohol preference in mammals."
The hormone is associated with environmental stress such as extreme dietary changes or cold temperature exposure. It is also produced when mammals consume carbohydrates.
Kliewer added, "Our findings raise the possibility that FGF21 administration could affect nutrient preference and other reward behaviors in humans, and that the hormone could potentially be used to treat alcoholism."
The researchers found that mice with elevated levels of FGF21 showed reduced preference for sweetener and alcohol-laced water as well as a marked decrease in levels of dopamine - a neuro-transmitter that plays a central role in reward behavior.
Co-senior author David Mangelsdorf said, "We found that FGF21 administration markedly reduces sweet and alcohol preference in mice and sweet preference in larger animal models."
Lucas BonDurant, doctoral student at University of Iowa, said, "We have known for a while that FGF21 can enhance insulin sensitivity. Now, there is this dimension where FGF21 can help people who might not be able to sense when they have had enough sugar, which may contribute to diabetes. However, FGF21 does not reduce intake of all sugars (sucrose, fructose, and glucose) equally. FGF21 also does not impact the intake of complex carbohydrates."
The findings published in the Cell Metabolism, suggest that additional studies are warranted to assess the effects of FGF21 on sweet and alcohol preference and other reward behavior in humans.