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Scientists discovered a link between gut serotonin and obesity

Posted April 7, 2018

Serotonin is the chemical of happiness. In fact, this neurotransmitter is responsible for both happiness and sadness. However, now scientists from Flinders University, SAHMRI and the University of Adelaide found that serotonin can also be linked to obesity. An increased concentration of this chemical disrupts the calorie control.

Obesity and diabetes can be linked to the levels of gut serotonin. Image credit: Yves Picq via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Serotonin is usually perceived as the chemical of happiness. However, increased levels of serotonin do not necessarily mean good things for person’s health. Scientists say that increased concentration of “gut serotonin” is actually bad for our metabolism – it increases blood glucose and fat mass. In other words, more serotonin in the body could lead to obesity and even diabetes. There is a cell in our gut that produces serotonin. Scientists found that obese people typically have twice as much serotonin in their gut in comparison with healthy individuals. Having discovered that, scientists say that this cell can become a major drug target in novel obesity treatments.

An international team of scientists conducted a research and found that obesity can actually be characterized by an increased capacity of the body to produce and release serotonin in the gut. Serotonin-producing cells are scattered in between the cells of the protective layer of the inside of human gut. These hormones are actually crucial for our health – they control the movement of fat, our metabolism and can even signal our brain when to start and stop eating. 90% of our bodies serotonin is actually made in the gut and cannot affect the mood, but it does affect the weight of the body. Increased levels of gut serotonin can be linked to diabetes and obesity – this information is not new. However, now scientists firmly established that this phenomenon is very important to humans. So what now?

Human gut produces and releases serotonin during meals as well as during rest. Finding ways to control the production of gut serotonin could mean a breakthrough in obesity treatment. Professor Damien Keating, one of the authors of the study, said: “Having established this, we can now focus on understanding why this happens, so we can develop methods to reduce circulating serotonin levels. These sorts of therapeutic outcomes are exactly why Pfizer decided to partner with us in this research area over the past four years”.

Obesity is pretty much a global epidemic. People are getting fatter and we don’t know where this will lead. We do know, however, that this is becoming a major threat to public health and fast action is needed. Promoting healthy lifestyle is the best bet, but at this point even medical intervention is a considerable solution.


Source: University of Adelaide

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