12 January - 20 June 2016

Targeting taste receptors in the gut could provide a new strategy against obesity

9 Jan 13

A review published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism by researchers from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium is reporting that taste receptors in the gut are very similar to those found on the tongue and let the body know when it is full.   The scientists indicate that targeting these taste receptors may be a promising new strategy to battling obesity.  Janssen et al. discuss taste, noting that taste is designed to inform us about the nutritional qualities of food, distinguishing between sweet, salt, umami, bitter and sour.  They also report that fat could be classified as the 6th sense as lipid detectors have been found to be present on the tongue.  The review discusses taste receptors in the mouth, stating that taste receptor cells once activated by tastants transmit information to the brain area involved in taste perception.    Janssen et al. report on chemosensory cells in the gut, noting that giving tastings intragastrically has been found to induce the release of a number of hormones from the gut, which are involved in satiety and the control of food intake.   They state: “it is tempting to speculate that obesity and diabetes could be treated by selective targeting of nutrient sensors on endocrine cells to release satiety hormones that are often co-stored in  conjunction with insulin from the pancreas, thereby mimicking the physiological effects of a meal and fooling the body that it has eaten.”  A previous study by the authors found that intransgastric administration of bitter tastants induced the secretion of ghrelin, which resulted in a short term increase in food intake.  In brief, sweet taste receptors have been detected in endocrine cells and umami chemoreception in the gastrointestinal tract.  Previous studies have indicated that certain sweet taste receptor complexes and amino acid receptors are involved in incretin hormone release.  The sensing of protein and amino acid in cells in the gut may play an important role in protein-induced satiety.   Different fatty acid sensing receptors have been discovered in pancreatic β cells and endocrine cells which control metabolic homeostatis.  One issue which the authors report in an ABC radio interview is that taste receptors are present on several cells; for example bitter is not sensed via a unique bitter taste receptor, so the issue now is how to target specific cells or specific regions in the gut and investigate which gut taste receptors might be effective for the prevention and treatment of obesity and diabetes.

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