Washington: Researchers have identified an anti-appetite molecule called acetate that is naturally released when we digest fibre in the gut.
Once released, the acetate is transported to the brain where it produces a signal to tell us to stop eating.
The research confirms the natural benefits of increasing the amount of fibre in our diets to control over-eating and could also help develop methods to reduce appetite. The study found that acetate reduces appetite when directly applied into the bloodstream, the colon or the brain.
Dietary fibre is found in most plants and vegetables but tends to be at low levels in processed food. When fibre is digested by bacteria in our colon, it ferments and releases large amounts of acetate as a waste product. The study tracked the pathway of acetate from the colon to the brain and identified some of the mechanisms that enable it to influence appetite.
Lead author of the study Professor Gary Frost, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said the average diet in Europe today contains about 15 g of fibre per day.
Frost said that in stone-age times we ate about 100g per day but now we favour low-fibre ready-made meals over vegetables, pulses and other sources of fibre. Unfortunately our digestive system has not yet evolved to deal with this modern diet and this mismatch contributes to the current obesity epidemic.
He said that the research has shown that the release of acetate is central to how fibre supresses our appetite and this could help scientists to tackle overeating.
The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.