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Hunger protein links stress, obesity

Neuropeptide Y builds fat when high-calorie diet combines with stress

Melissa Lee Phillips
A neurotransmitter that acts as a central controller for appetite also regulates stress-induced obesity in the body's periphery, according to a paper in this month's Nature Medicine. The authors found that abdominal fat increased in stressed mice through the actions of neuropeptide Y (NPY) and one of its receptors. Blocking this receptor's signaling prevented stress-induced obesity."It's really quite an important study, both from a basic point of view as well as for potential clinical applications," said Esther Sabban of New York Medical College in Valhalla, who was not involved in the work.Previous work has found that stress stimulates NPY release from sympathetic nerves. NPY activity also promotes obesity through central mechanisms, primarily by increasing appetite, senior author Zofia Zukowska of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., told The Scientist. However, NPY's "peripheral role has really never been studied," she said.Zukowska's lab previously discovered that NPY promotes blood...

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