Brain Mechanism that Triggers Obesity with Smoking Cessation Found!

Published:June 25th, 2011

Do you want to quit smoking but fear weight gain as a result of your decision? Do you know what causes obesity with smoking cessation?

A new researched has finally discovered the brain mechanism that causes excessive weight gain associated with quitting tobacco and cigarette smoking.

In previous studies, scientists found that nicotine decreases caloric intake resulting in decrease in weight in mice. Nicotine influences the hypothalamic melanocortin system, a brain pathway responsible in regulating the amount of energy expenditure and energy intake. By reducing food intake, body fat accumulation minimizes. The body mostly finds cigarette smoking and withdrawal as a reward leading to more food intake and weight gain. It is now a well-known fact that smoking suppresses the appetite center, which makes smokers thinner than most nonsmokers in the general population. And after smoking, the opposite happens: quitters gain more weight than most nonsmokers.

In the study conducted at the Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, 34 Park Street, Third Floor Research, New Haven, CT and published in the June 2011 issue of Science, the researchers found that stimulating the hypothalamic α3 β4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors or nACHRs results in the stimulation of the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons. Activating these nerve cells is important for the nicotinic-reposnisble decrease in the caloric intake in mice.

Dr. Picciotto and his team observed that nicotine can slash food intake by as much as 50 percent, therefore lowering the body fat mass by ten to twenty percent over time.

Dr. Picciotto and his colleagues say suggests that blocking the function of α3 β4 nAChR may prove useful for limiting increases in weight after quitting smoking.

These results shows that targeting this specific brain pathway can hypothetically mask nicotine withdrawal and therefore reduce the tendency for overeating during the process of smoking cessation. However more researches are needed to further prove this claim.


Science; Nicotine Decreases Food Intake Through Activation of POMC Neurons; Mineur, Y. E., et al.; June 2011

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