Explaining How Smoking Keeps People Thin

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If there is one advantage of smoking cigarettes, it is that it appears to keep people thin (although that is not a reason to take-up the deadly habit). Now one study is trying to explain why, and hopefully use the findings in weight-loss products.

In experiments with mice, a compound called cytisine "prevented weight gain by activating the same set of neurons in the hypothalamus as nicotine does," writes HealthDay News. This pathway is also involved in appetite and metabolism.

"We have to be very cautious," said study author Yann Mineur, an associate research scientist in psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. "As far as we can tell, is fairly similar to what's happening in humans."

The smoking-cessation drug Chantix is a derivative of cytisine.

The problem in using this in weight-loss drugs is that nicotine receptors are all over the body, so any drug would have to be very targeted. If not, it could have effects on other parts of the body, including memory, blood pressure and heart beat.

Mineur said cytisine, is fairly selective, targeting receptors in the peripheral nervous system.

The study appears in the June 10 issue of Science.

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