New Delhi: Fear of weight gain has always discouraged some smokers who would like to quit.
But now, a new study has uncovered a brain mechanism that could be targeted for new medications designed to help people quit smoking without gaining weight.
In the study researchers found that a nicotine-like drug, cytisine, specifically activated nicotinic receptors in the hypothalamus - a brain center that controls feeding in rodents.
This resulted in the activation of a circuit that reduced food intake and body fat in a mouse model. This effect was very specific, since a drug that prevented cytisine from binding to its hypothalamic receptors blocked the reduction in food intake.
"These mouse models allow us to explore the mechanisms through which nicotine acts in the brain to reduce food intake," said Dr. Marina Picciotto, of Yale University, New Haven, Conn. and senior author for the article. "We found that nicotine reduced eating and body fat through receptors implicated in nicotine aversion and withdrawal rather than reward and reinforcement."
"These results indicate that medications that specifically target this pathway could alleviate nicotine withdrawal as well as reduce the risk of overeating during smoking cessation," said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "
The study will be published in the journal of Science.