A team of researchers from Imperial College London and King’s College London tested a high fat diet containing a fermentable carbohydrate against a control diet. The study used mice as subjects and determined the effect on food intake of those with and without the FFAR2 receptor.
The results showed that mice eating the food containing fermentable carbohydrate were protected against obesity as long as the FFAR2 receptor was present. This protection was however lost when the receptor was not present. The mice with the receptor showed an increased density of cells containing PYY, as well as an increase of 130% in the satiety inducing gut hormone peptide YY. This led to an increased feeling of fullness.
Gavin Bewick from King’s College London, the lead author of the study, noted that obesity is currently one of the most serious global threats to human health. Obesity risk factors are determined by genetic background, lifestyle and diet. It is known that supplementing your diet with non-digestible carbohydrates reduce appetite and results in a reduction of body weight gain. This study demonstrated the vital role of the FFAR2 receptor in enabling specific dietary constituents to lessen food intake and protect against obesity for the first time.
The results of the study can be used as a basis to start looking at whether diet or pharmaceutical means can be used to change the cellular make-up of the gut in order to treat a multitude of disorders.
Professor Gary Frost, co-lead author from the Department of Medicine at Imperial, feels that this a major step forward in understanding the connection between diet and appetite regulation. Dietary fiber was until recently thought of as inert, having very little effect on physiology. Frost is amazed by the fact that dietary fiber actually has a major impact on cells that help control appetite regulation in the colon. He feel that the next challenge is to translate this into a technology that can be applied to humans. This can only be done once they understand how the knowledge and insight gained can be used to develop food systems that will be attractive to a large segment of the population.