New treatments which tackle obesity in middle-aged people will be the centre of discussions in Aberdeen this week.
Aberdeen University Professor Lora Heisler will share her findings on new ways to combat weight gain.
Prof Heisler, chair of human nutrition at the university’s Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, has carried out research showing how signals in the brain affect eating function later in life.
She said: “From young adulthood approaching middle age, people commonly experience progressive weight gain and this is commonly referred to as middle-aged spread.
“More than half of people in the UK are overweight and one in four are clinically obese. This is an enormous percentage of the population.”
Hormones produced by cells in an area of the brain where appetite is controlled are responsible for regulating appetite and body weight.
Prof Heisler added: “As we approach mid-life these ‘fullness’ cells slow down and become lazier in sending these signals, which leads to a misjudgement of how much food our body needs.
“Our research has focused on understanding how obesity medications formerly available on prescription around the globe.
“What we have found is that the small subset of cells that make pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) peptides are the key to these particular drugs working effectively.
“These drugs spark POMC neurons into action, triggering important signals to the brain to let us know when we have had enough to eat.”
She added: “Our new understanding of the crucial role POMC neuron play in combating the middle-aged spread opens the door to new medications that could be developed to jump-start the signals these neurons send to control appetite and our waistline.”
Prof Heisler’s talk, titled ‘Obesity – It’s all in the head’, will take place at the university’s Suttie Centre, Foresterhill, on December 4 at 7pm.