In this study, the researchers show that by inhibiting the hormone serotonin found in the gut of mice, BAT, is more active and burns more calories. If you haven't read my book, BAT is a special type of fat whose purpose is to burn fat to create heat. This is why we see a seasonality to the amount of BAT, with it's amount/activity peaking in the winter months. Having plenty of this brown fat has been linked to lower risk for diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, etc. In adult humans, BAT is found near the collar bone; it not only helps with non-shivering thermogeneis (heat production), but also help burn off excess calories in our diet, something likely useful for the majority of the developed/Western world.
“Our results are quite striking and indicate that inhibiting the production of [serotonin] may be very effective for reversing obesity and related metabolic diseases including diabetes," said one of the main authors of the study.
Researchers say a typical high fat "Western diet" raises levels of peripheral serotonin, which inhibits BAT activity, slowing down one's metabolism as they age. (Note: this pool of "peripheral" serotonin--comprising about 95% of the total serotonin in the body--is mainly active in the gut and separate from the serotonin in the brain or central nervous system, which regulates mood.)
The implications of inhibiting the production of serotonin could be both a reversal of obesity, but may also help prevent diabetes and a host of other mitochondrially-related chronic disorders.
"Because (brown fat) is able to use so much sugar, turning it on again could be an important way to increase your basal metabolic rate and lower your blood sugar if you've got diabetes."
Melatonin has also been shown to up-regulate brown fat. While it's too early to say whether the mechanism discovered by this new study is applicable to melatonin's mechanism of action, it is appropriate to note that serotonin coverts into melatonin. Based on feedback loops, could high melatonin levels suppress our body from producing serontonin?
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Source: Inhibiting peripheral serotonin synthesis reduces obesity and metabolic dysfunction by promoting brown adipose tissue thermogenesis
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