Is This the Cause of Unwanted Weight Gain?

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

February 4, 2019



Do you struggle with weight issues? If so, you’re not alone. There’s a reason this is a billion dollar industry – a lot of people can’t lose weight. No matter how hard they try. No matter what they eat. And no matter how much they exercise.

What most people don’t realize is that there’s an underlying cause of weight gain that might be keeping you from dropping those unwanted pounds. This cause can go hand-in-hand with a loss of muscle mass, so the effects can be dangerous to your overall health. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to fix this underlying cause. As you’ll see, all you have to do is correct this one deficiency.

This overlooked cause of weight gain is simply a deficiency of amino acids. As you may know, amino acids are molecules that attach to each other in different sequences to make up the various proteins that regulate our bodies.

Does this mean you just have to take amino acids to lose weight? Well, there are two powerful research studies that indicate that a deficiency of amino acids may be one of the causes of an inability to lose weight.

Why Amino Acids Decrease Cravings

In the first study, a team of scientists from the University of Warwick in Coventry, United Kingdom decided to investigate how amino acids could result in weight loss. They start off their report by stating, “Amino acids have been long known to be the most efficient type of nutrient at satisfying hunger and providing an extended period of satiety.” Then, they go on to explain that the effect probably has to do with how amino acids directly act on the areas in the brain that control the feeling of hunger and cravings.

Previous studies have already shown that when researchers inject amino acids directly into the brains of rats, they don’t want to eat. So, how does it work? To find out, they conducted a series of experiments and discovered something that could transform our concepts about weight-loss practices.

The scientists, led by Nicholas Dale, a professor of neuroscience, found that a group of specialized brains cells called tanycytes are able to send signals that stop the sensations of hunger. Their findings were published in the journal Molecular Metabolism. They were able to show that the tanycytes start sending anti-hunger signals when they detect certain amino acids in the blood.

Professor Dale had this to say about the findings, “Amino acid levels in blood and brain following a meal are a very important signal that imparts the sensation of feeling full. Finding that tanycytes, located at the center of the brain region that controls body weight, directly sense amino acids has very significant implications for coming up with new ways to help people to control their body weight within healthy bounds.” Well, that’s great for rats, but what about people?

Blood Levels of Amino Acids Affect Appetite

Back in 1997, scientists from the Department of Medicine at UCLA School of Medicine, published a report entitled, “Relationship between serum amino concentration and fluctuations in appetite.” In that study, the researchers looked at the blood levels of amino acids after a group of men and women ate meals composed of various amounts of amino acids. Then, they asked the participants on a scale of zero to four how hungry they were. They discovered that the higher the blood (serum) levels of amino acids were, the less hunger the men and women felt. But what if there was something else in the food that decreased appetite? Maybe it wasn’t the amino acids?

In two other experiments, instead of having the subjects eat the amino acids in the form of foods, they infused them directly into the veins.  And in a forth experiment they had the subjects drink a solution of pure amino acids in the absence of any food.  Here’s what they discovered.

“In all four experiments the appetite diminished when the amino acid concentration rose, and when the amino acid concentration fell, the appetite increased.” This is called a “dose responsive pattern.” As I have pointed out many times before, a dose responsive pattern is proof that the substances being tested, in this case amino acids, are responsible for the results. 


Mellinkoff SM, Frankland M, et al. Relationship between serum amino acid concentration and fluctuations in appetite. Obes Res. 1997 Jul;5(4):381-4.

Lazutkaite G, Soldà A, et al. Amino acid sensing in hypothalamic tanycytes via umami tastereceptors. Mol Metab. 2017 Nov;6(11):1480-1492.


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