June 10, 2011
How Smoking Suppresses Appetite

Smoking really does suppress appetite and some researchers at Yale and Baylor College of Medicine have narrowed down the appetite suppression mechanism to a particular class of neural receptors in the hypothalamus. This discovery opens up a target for drug development for both smokers and non-smoking folks with weight problems.

Smokers tend to die young, but they tend to die thinner than non-smokers. A team of scientists led by Yale School of Medicine has discovered exactly how nicotine suppresses appetite findings that suggest that it might be possible to develop a drug that would help smokers, and non-smokers, stay thin.

Nicotine activates a small set of neurons in a section of the hypothalamus that signals the body has had enough to eat, the researchers report in the June 10 issue of the journal Science. Nicotine accomplishes this trick by activating a different set of receptors on the surface of neurons than those that trigger a craving for tobacco.

"Unfortunately, smoking does keep weight off," said Marina Picciotto, the Charles B.G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry, professor of neurobiology and pharmacology and senior author of the paper. "Many people say they won't quit smoking because they'll gain weight. Ultimately, we would like to help people maintain their body weight when they kick the habit and perhaps help non-smokers who are struggling with obesity."

Needed: a drug that selectively binds to the the α3β4 nicotinic receptor.

In the study, lead investigator Dr. Marian Picciotto, Yale University School of Medicine, and her research team focused on nicotine receptors expressed in the hypothalamic neurons that control the motivation to eat. In mice, they were able to determine that a particular nicotinic receptor subtype, the α3β4 nicotinic receptor, can influence how much a subject eats. They found that when nicotine binds to this receptor, pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons are activated, beginning the process that leads to appetite suppression.

From identification of a drug target to availability of a drug on the market can easily take 10 years. So this is good news for smokers overweight people in the 2020s.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 June 10 01:46 PM  Brain Appetite

Basil Ransom said at June 10, 2011 2:43 PM:

Or you could just use smokeless tobacco pellets now, which deliver nicotine at the cost of maybe 1% greater mortality risk. And surely cheaper.

Simon said at June 11, 2011 12:19 AM:

It seems to me that smoke is what causes the damage from cigarettes rather than nicotine. E-cigarettes might be a net positive for health if they help reduce weight.

However, my guess is that smokers are thinner because when bored they tend to smoke rather than eat. I think having an addiction that doesn't involve smoke, hallucinations, drowsiness, calories or damage to the teeth could possibly be a good hedge against diseases of affluence. If it's an appetite suppressant all the better.

West said at June 16, 2011 11:39 AM:

The previous comments mirror my thoughts. We have "a drug that selectively binds to the the α3β4 nicotinic receptor."

It is called nicotine.

Becca76 said at June 16, 2011 11:46 AM:

I was just having a conversation about this subject! I wondered if anyone has done a study on the rise of obesity in relation to the decrease of smoking. I was actualy joking, but it would be interesting to see the study timelines.

Deoxy said at June 16, 2011 1:22 PM:
We have "a drug that selectively binds to the the α3β4 nicotinic receptor."

It is called nicotine.

Exactly. And it's even available right now in smokeless, non-tobacco forms - gum and patches. And we have literally centuries of experience with the stuff to know it's safe.

I really don't see how ANYTHING is going to compete with that in my lifetime.

Rebecca said at June 16, 2011 4:19 PM:

Another plug here for e-cigs. I bought a 510-mega kit online (a little bit of research revealed that the models sold in smoke shops and gas stations are overpriced crap) because my teenage son had complained about the smell of smoke in the house. I didn't intend to quit - in fact, I had the opposite intention. I wanted to be able to smoke more easily, and in more places, and planned to use electronic cigarettes in places where regular cigarettes were banned, and in the shared areas of my own home, still smoking "analogs" in my bedroom, workroom, etc...

Since getting my e-cigs, I've smoked 3 cigarettes. I lit a fourth, inhaled once, put it out and reached for my e-cig. It's been more than a month, and I've got cigarettes in the house that I feel completely free to smoke, but I don't want one of those anymore.

Even when I thought about, or tried quitting in the past, nicotine was never my concern. Too many studies are showing positive effects of nicotine, even in a political environment that tends to downplay any positives related to smoking. I'm a happy vaper now, quite by accident.

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