Previous research has pointed to a diet rich in protein to help with weight management, and a new study may be one step closer to figuring out why.
Using rodents, scientists at Imperial College London examined the role of phenylalanine—an amino acid produced when the body breaks down protein—in supporting healthy weight. In a nutshell, there are specific hormones in the body that tell us when we are hungry or full, and phenylalanine triggers the release of the “full” hormone, which prompts us to stop eating.
When researchers gave a dose of phenylalanine to a group of mice and rats, they noted not only a boost in the level of GLP-1 (the appetite-suppressing “full” hormone), but also a decrease in the level of ghrelin (the “hungry” hormone). As a result, those rodents ate less, were more active and lost more weight than the non-treated control group. Also of note, when phenylalanine was given to a group of already obese mice, those mice lost weight.
According to study authors, phenylalanine works by targeting something called CaSR—or calcium-sensing receptor—and CaSR is what triggers the changes in levels of GLP-1 and ghrelin. “Our work is the first to demonstrate that activating CaSR can suppress appetite,” said lead author Mariana Norton in a news release. She and her colleague Amin Alamshah believe their findings may lead to new treatment options for weight loss in humans.