Can a hormone in your brain really be the secret to losing weight? Scientists recently discovered that a well-known brain hormone can trigger fat burning throughout your body. Find out everything you need to know about this exciting development today.
What is the Brain Hormone?
Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) identified a brain hormone that appears to trigger fat burning in your gut.
The biologists found the brain hormone in animal models and claim that the research could have important implications on the future of pharmaceuticals:
“This was basic science that unlocked an interesting mystery,” said TSRI Assistant Professor Supriya Srinivasan, senior author of the new study. The study was published in the latest issue of Nature Communications.
That brain hormone isn’t new: it’s serotonin, the well-known neurotransmitter that’s linked to happiness.
How Does Serotonin Trigger Fat Burning?
For years, we’ve known that serotonin and weight loss are connected. We’ve seen countless studies where the neurotransmitter serotonin was linked with fat loss.
However, researchers never understood why these two were connected. This latest study sought to answer that question.
To answer that question, researchers experimented with roundworms called C. elegans, which are popular subjects for biological studies. The worms have simple metabolic systems, but their brains produce similar signals to human brains. Although worms and humans are quite different, finding in roundworms are often significant to human health.
Researchers deleted genes in C. elegans in an attempt to interrupt the pathway between brain serotonin and fat burning. They tested one gen after another, hoping to find a gene without which fat burning wouldn’t occur. Researchers eventually stumbled upon a gene that codes for a neuropeptide hormone they named FLP-7.
The mammalian version of FLP-7 is called tachykinin. It was identified 80 years ago for its ability to trigger muscle contractions when it was exposed to pig intestines. Even 80 years ago, researchers knew this peptide demonstrated a connection between the brain and the gut – although researchers didn’t understand why.
FLP-7 and Fat Burning
How did FLP-7 cause fat burning? To answer that question, researchers “tagged” FLP-7 with red protein. Since roundworms are transparent, this allowed researchers to visualize the process taking place in the body.
Researchers found that FLP-7 was secreted by neurons in the brain in response to higher serotonin levels. After being secreted, FLP-7 traveled through the circulatory system and initiated the fat burning process in the gut.
No Side Effects Were Observed
This research is exciting because it provides a demonstrable link between fat burning and serotonin.
Typically, your brain raises serotonin levels in response to sensory cues – like food availability. These higher serotonin levels trigger another set of neurons (FLP-7), which then activate a receptor in your intestinal cells. The intestinal cells are told to start turning fat into energy, causing fat loss across your body.
Interestingly, researchers also found that higher FLP-7 levels didn’t come with any side effects: the worms performed as they normally did, but they burned more fat.
What Does This Mean for your Diet? How to Raise Serotonin and Boost Fat Burning
Now let’s get to the important stuff: how does this information correspond to your dieting goals? How can you use this information to make your diet easier?
It means we have proof that serotonin increases fat burning in roundworms. However, we’ve also seen this effect in humans, where higher serotonin levels are linked with higher fat burning.
With that in mind, you can increase the effectiveness of your diet by raising serotonin. The best ways to raise serotonin are:
- Exercise: Walking or running are particularly effective, but all types of exercise have been shown to raise serotonin levels.
- Get More Vitamin B6: The best dietary sources of vitamin B include spinach, turnip greens, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, fish, and chicken.
- Eat Foods Rich with Protein: Protein-rich foods contain tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin within the body.
- Get Outside: Sunlight has been shown to have lots of positive benefits on the body. Raising serotonin is one such benefit.
- Reduce Stress: Studies have shown that getting a massage and engaging it other de-stressing activities can increase serotonin. These activities work by lowering stress, which lowers cortisol in your body, thereby increasing serotonin.
- Eliminate Sugar: Reducing or eliminating sugar from your body is an effective way to boost serotonin levels.
Ultimately, the best way to boost serotonin is by doing thing that make you happy. Serotonin is the happiness hormone – and now we know it’s also a proven fat burner.