A natural way to curb appetite discovered
It may also have the potential to treat aspects of alcohol and drug abuse.
Hemopressin is a small bit of protein which works by affecting the reward centres of the brain associated with pleasurable experiences such as eating, sex and drug highs.
"It has long been known that the rewarding aspects of feeding behaviour influence our appetite, so that sometimes we eat for pleasure rather than hunger.
"By reducing hedonistic feeding, it is possible to help people lose weight by quenching the desire to eat," said study co-author Dr Garron Dodd, from the Faculty of Life Science at the University of Manchester.
The scientists gave hemopressin to mice and monitored their feeding and other behaviours. They found that while the amount they ate decreased, their behaviour patterns remained the same.
Six years ago, a synthetic anti-obesity product - Rimonabant - was developed which also acted on the brain to suppress appetite as well as reducing fat deposition.
However, it was later withdrawn from the market due to side effects such as depression and increased suicidal thoughts.
But Dr Dodd believes that the naturally-occurring hemopressin may not cause such side effects.
"This is a newly discovered peptide and we do not know yet exactly where it is expressed in the brain," he said.
"This discovery does however offer new insights into how the brain controls appetite, and opens new avenues by which to manipulate this brain circuitry and aid the development of anti-obesity treatments."
Dr Dodds said his team now plan to carry out further research to find out if hemopressin has a long lasting effect.
They also need to establish whether their findings can be confirmed in people.
Children need more exercise
Obesity basic information
'Anti-obesity vaccine' developed
UK Sat Fat Map shows everyone in Britain eating too much saturated fat
Is Obesity all in the mind?
See original for links: uk.health.lifestyle.yahoo.net