Liver hormone may be the off-switch for sweet-tooth, cocktail cravings

Gimmicky diets, flavor fakery, and sham sweets all try to bamboozle the brain out of wanting sugary treats and calorie-packed happy hour drinks. But scientists may have found an all-natural way to simply switch off those corrupting cravings.

When researchers gave mice and monkeys an added dose of a mammalian liver hormone called Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21), both species voluntarily went off sweets, even artificial ones. And mice previously hooked on alcoholic beverages were more content with plain water after the hormone therapy. The results, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, follow a series of studies that suggest FGF21 is a key metabolic regulator that may be helpful in treating obesity and type 2 diabetes. Clinical trials are already underway.

Those previous studies suggested that FGF21, made mostly in the liver but also in fat tissue and the pancreas, can help regulate glucose and lipid metabolism in the body. Many food inputs and hormonal cues, some complex, some simple, can tweak metabolism. Studies suggested that FGF21 gets involved by crossing the blood-brain barrier and grabbing onto a specific complex of proteins on the outside of cells in the central nervous system. By clamping on, the hormone can activate signals within the brain that ultimately alter food intake.

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