Is being overweight all in the brain?

SAN DIEGO, Calif.--By using positron emission tomography (PET) to study the brain's neuroreceptors in relation to obesity, scientists may be getting closer to determining important information about the neurobiological mechanisms involved, according to a group of Danish researchers. Their findings were presented at SNM's 53rd Annual Meeting June 37 in San Diego.

"From our molecular imaging research, we have discovered that overweight people have more of a certain type of serotonin receptor (the so-called 5-HT2A receptor) in their brains," said David Erritzoe, research fellow with the Neurobiology Research Unit and Center for Integrated Molecular Brain Imaging in Copenhagen, Denmark. Serotonin is a chemical compound in the brain involved in the regulation of many functions, including appetite, sleep and emotions, he added. "This relationship suggests that the 5-HT2A receptor is crucially involved in regulation of body weight and that the receptor should be exploited as a target for regulation of appetite," said Erritzoe, co-author of "Overweight Associated With Increased Serotonin 2A Receptor Binding in Humans," the first study to examine links between the 5-HT2A receptor and body weight.

Obesity among adults has risen significantly in the United States--cutting across all ages, racial and ethnic groups and gender. Reports indicate that about 30 percent--or 60 million--of U.S. adults 20 years of age and older are obese, and the percentages of obese young people and children have risen considerably as well. These increasing rates have profound implications for health, because being overweight or obese increases the risk of many diseases and health conditions, including coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and some cancers.

"This is the first study where a large number of healthy individuals have been studied to determine the association between 5-HT2A and body weight," said Erritzoe. "We found that a high body mass i

Contact: Maryann Verrillo
Society of Nuclear Medicine

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