Suppressing Our Sweet Tooth

By Richard Liang ’18

The hormone FGF21 is secreted to decrease an individual’s appetite for sugar in candies.

Sugar is something most people cannot live without. Although it can bring happiness to individuals that indulge in its sweetness, it can present a serious problem for diabetics and those suffering from obesity. A study recently published in Cell Metabolism by a research group at the University of Iowa has discovered a hormone that can suppress sugar cravings in mice.

Hepatokine fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a hormone that is produced in the liver in response to the body consuming high-carb foods and signals the brain to dampen an individual’s appetite for sugar.  FGF21 is the first liver-derived hormone identified to discriminate between different types of food and altering subsequently alter a person’s appetite to prefer one food type to others. The researchers conducted experiments on three sets of mice: one set was genetically unable to produce FGF21, one was provided with additional FGF21 injections, and one was composed of normal mice. When researchers injected FGF21 into the second group of mice, the mice ate seven times less sugar than normal mice that were not injected with the hormone. Additionally, the mice that could not naturally synthesize FGF21 consumed more sugar than did the normal mice.

Though this hormone does not suppress the craving for complex carbohydrates, proteins, or lipids, it can be linked to certain eating disorders. This research leads may lead to further development of treatments for eating disorders and diabetes, potentially, enabling those with the disease to have a better sense of when they have had enough sugar.



  1. Image acquired from:
  2. Khan, Hormone that controls sugar cravings found, scientists reveal. Independent (2015)



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