One approach to weight-reduction drugs is to suppress appetite, the idea behind a nasal spray being developed by Nastech Pharmaceutical. The spray, now in phase I trials, is based on the hormone PYY, which the stomach normally releases when it is full. The drug triggers the feeling of satiety before you have actually filled your stomach.
Research demonstrates that the hormones leptin and ghrelin play a powerful role in appetite control. This may be due to their effects on the enzyme AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase). In mouse experiments, inhibiting AMPK caused the animals to eat less and lose weight, whereas increasing AMPK levels had the opposite effect. The authors of the study describe AMPK as “a ‘fuel gauge’ to monitor cellular energy status.” This finding indicates that drugs to control AMPK levels in humans have the potential to have the same impact. In a study published in the journal Science, researchers reported another mechanism by which leptin and ghrelin affect appetite: these hormones actually cause the brain to rewire itself. Previously it was thought that they acted like other hormones in affecting the behavior of brain cells directly. This research showed that leptin strengthened neural connections that inhibited eating and weakened connections that increased appetite. Ghrelin had the opposite effect and could undo the neural changes from earlier administration of leptin. It is almost as if the brain is developing a memory for the weight it wants the animals to be,” commented Dr. Jeffrey Flier of Beth Israel – Deaconess Hospital in Boston. The research underscores the power of these hormones to affect our eating behavior, so drugs that alter their balance have the potential to reprogram our eating in a healthier direction.
How Omega-3s Promote Weight-Loss:
Most people eat too few foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, walnuts, and flax seeds, and too many processed foods with excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, including soy, corn, palm, and cottonseed oils. A typical Western diet now contains 20 to 30 times as much omega-6s as omega-3 fats, while a century ago people consumed about equal amounts. This fatty-acid imbalance in the diet may have ill effects on mental health. For instance, low levels of omega-3s have been linked to depression and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the prevalence of those conditions has risen as omega-3 content in the diet has decreased. As scientists search for an explanation, more evidence suggests omega-3s are essential to normal brain development and function.
Joseph Hibbeln, MD, senior clinical investigator at the Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, has studied the connection between fish consumption and mental health worldwide. He found that those countries with the highest fish consumption have the lowest rates of depression, bipolar disorder, homicide, and suicide. One explanation may be the omega-3s found in some fish. The Japanese, for example, have the lowest rate of major depression in the developed world and eat about 145 pounds offish annually, while major depression rates in the United States, where people eat about 42 pounds a year, are roughly 30 times higher. Many other studies reinforce the mental health benefits of omega-3 fats. A 1999 study led by Andrew Stoll, MD, author of The Omega-3 Connection, tested the effects of omega-3 supplements on 30 patients with bipolar disorder (manic depression). After just four months, people given high doses offish oil in addition to taking their usual medication had significantly longer breaks between depressive episodes than those taking a placebo. People with ADHD also seem to have lower blood levels of healthy omega-3 fats. And research suggests that children with autism who take fish oil have better concentration, less aggression, and fewer sleep disturbances.
Doctors are also reporting positive results. “I recommend my patients with ADHD and autism supplement with fish oil to get more omega-3s,” says Tucson-based integrative pediatrician Sandy Newmark, MD. “In autism, you often see an improvement in language development and parents report improvement in social skills.”

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