New Study Suggests That Protein Keeps
You Thin and Awake

by Christine Hronec

New research published in the Nov. 17th 2011 issue of Neuron, a scientific journal, found that protein and not sugar activates cells responsible for keeping energy levels high and for burning calories.  The mid-afternoon slump so familiar to many is often remedied by consumption of a sugary caffeinated beverage; however this new study suggests that it is protein that keeps people thin and awake.

Orexin cells, are a type of cell that secrete a stimulant known as orexin/hypocretin in the brain.  In this study, University of Cambridge scientists found that amino acids stimulate more orexin neurons than other studied nutrients. These cells revealed unique revealed that reduced cell activity results in narcolepsy and can even be linked to weight gain.  It is believe by lead researcher, Dr. Denis Burdakov, that sleep patterns are related to overall health and body weight.  Where shift work and poor diet can lead to obesity.  He also noted that, “Electrical impulses emitted by orexin cells stimulate wakefulness and tell the body to burn calories.”

Brain activity of mice was analyzed via target fluorescence after feeding mice amino acid blends to mimic that of egg whites to track the impulses of the orexin cells,  It was found that amino acids stimulated orexin cells where a previous study by this same research group showed that glucose (sugar) actually blocks orexin cell activity.  Scientists are thrilled at the concept of being able to rationally tune brains cells in making food choices.  While more information is needed to more thoroughly explore the interactions between diet and sleep/appetite patterns, one should, if not already begin selecting protein based ingredients versus sugar based ingredients to prevent the mid-afternoon slump.

Manesh M Karnani, John Apergis-Schoute, Antoine Adamantis, Lise T. Jensen, Luis de Lecea, Lars Fugger, Denis Burdakov, Activation of Central Orexin/Hyporetin Neurons by Dietary Amino Acids. Neuron, 2011; 72 (4):616

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