Is Your Liver Responsible For Your Sweet Tooth?

Your relationship to sugar may be directly linked to a specific hormone in your liver, a new study reveals.

Researchers from the University of Iowa found that fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is produced in response to high carbohydrate levels - and it is responsible for telling the brain to suppress the desire for sweets.

FGF21 is produced in the liver, suggesting that the psychological mechanisms that trigger your sweeth tooth may be rooted in this critical organ.

"This is the first liver-derived hormone we know that regulates sugar intake specifically," said Matthew Potthoff, assistant professor of pharmacology in the UI Carver College of Medicine.

Helpful for diabetic patients?

While previous studies have shown that hormones indeed affect appetite, they don't - like FGF21 - act on specific macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein or fat. They also aren't produced in the liver, the study authors explained.

Researchers used mouse models to determine how FGF21 regulated sugar cravings in mice who were injected with the hormone. The team also studied mice who didn't produce FGF21 at all or who produced very low levels.

In general, mice with lower levels of the hormone ate more sugar than mice with high levels of FGF21.

"We've known for a while that FGF21 can enhance insulin sensitivity," said Lucas BonDurant, co-author of the study. "Now, there's this dimension where FGF21 can help people who might not be able to sense when they've had enough sugar, which may contribute to diabetes."

Source: University of Iowa

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