How we can stop stress from making us obese

Neuropeptide Y (NPY), a molecule the body releases when stressed, can ‘unlock’ Y2 receptors in the body’s fat cells, stimulating the cells to grow in size and number.
13 June 2007

Professor Herbert Herzog, Director of the Neuroscience Research Program at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, together with scientists from the US and Slovakia, have shown that neuropeptide Y (NPY), a molecule the body releases when stressed, can ‘unlock’ Y2 receptors in the body’s fat cells, stimulating the cells to grow in size and number.

"We had groups of mice that were given either a normal or a high calorie diet. Some of these mice were then exposed to periods of stress (like cold conditions) over several weeks. We found that the stressed mice on the high calorie diet put on double the expected amount of weight", explained Herzog.

The study has major implications for the development of new methods of weight loss.

“Until now, the pharmaceutical industry has focused on appetite suppressants with only moderate success. Our hope is that in the near future pharmaceutical companies, using the results of our research, will develop antagonists against the Y2 receptor that will help prevent fat accumulating and potentially be used to destroy fat cells in particular parts of the body, such as the thighs or abdomen", said Herzog.

Reference:
Neuropeptide Y acts directly in the periphery on fat tissue and mediates stress-induced obesity and metabolic syndrome. Kuo, L.E., Kitlinska, J.B., Tilan, J.U., Li, L., Baker, S.B., Johnson, M.D., Lee, E.W., Burnett, M.S., Fricke, S.T., Kvetnansky, R.K., Herzog, H. & Zukowska, Z. Nature Medicine advance online publication, 1 July 2007 doi:10.1038/nm1611