Don't pat yourself on the back just yet for having the willpower to eat only one cookie off the holiday dessert tray.
The ability to limit sweets may come from a hormone released by the liver, according to new research.
There's been a heap of scientific inquiry into sugar-seeking behavior - how sugar might be addictive and how eating it lights up the pleasure centers of our brain like a Christmas tree - but scientists know very little about the regulatory signals the body sends itself after a person eats sugar.
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"We never imagined that a circulating, liver-derived factor would exist whose function is to control sweet appetite," study author Matthew Gillum said in a release.
The name of the hormone is FGF21 and it "can exert powerful effects on behavior by acting on the central nervous system," added study author Steven A. Kliewer in the release.
This signaling system may have evolved to help promote a healthy diet or it may be a natural protection against too much booze, since alcohol is fermented sugar. Whatever the case, the pathway can now be studied for possible applications in treating obesity and diabetes.
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"We are very excited about investigating this hormonal pathway further," noted Gillum.
But as anyone who has ever turned to a candy bar for comfort knows, sugar is closely connected to mood. So researchers need to proceed with caution.
"While at first blush it would seem that this FGF21-regulated pathway could be a panacea for suppressing sugar and alcohol consumption, it's important to keep in mind that these reward behaviors are closely tied to mood, and so additional studies to determine if FGF21 causes depression are certainly warranted," added Kliewer.