Researchers identify protein that may control appetite and blood sugar, promising improved type 2 diabetes treatments

Higher levels of a particular protein may be the key to controlling appetite and preventing unhealthy fluctuations in blood sugar and other diabetes complications, according to a new study out of New York University.

Researchers found that supplements containing nesfatin-1 caused lab mice to eat less, burn more fat and become more physically active. These benefits helped prevent the animals from becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes.

The finding, which was published in the Journal of Endocrinology, could be a major breakthrough in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, which is continuing to grow in prevalence and is reaching epidemic proportions.

Type 2 diabetes is primarily caused by excessive bodily fat. This causes tissue to become less sensitive to the effects of insulin, which leads to unregulated glucose levels. High blood sugar can damage tissue throughout the body, often leading to deadly complications like heart disease and kidney damage.

Knowledge of nesfatin-1 is relatively new to science. It was just discovered by a team of Japanese researchers in 2006. However, in addition to the appetite-regulating benefits mentioned above, it may help individuals with type 2 diabetes in a number of other ways.

The present study also showed that the protein stimulates production of insulin in the pancreas. This helps to control blood sugar levels. The researchers think this discovery could prompt the development of powerful new medications that would make it much easier for overweight individuals at risk for developing type 2 diabetes to lose weight and improve their metabolic health.

"New hormone-based treatments that would suppress body weight and blood sugar would be very desirable," said Suraj Unniappan, who led the study. "However, we are far from developing nesfatin-1 as a candidate molecule. Our current research focuses on further exploring the therapeutic potential of nesfatin-1 in metabolic diseases with debilitating complications."

While further research is needed, Unniappan said nesfatin may be a very promising protein in the battle against obesity and type 2 diabetes.