Hormone released by cells targets part of the brain that makes us hungry. PICTURE: Supplied

Hormone released by cells targets part of the brain that makes us hungry.

The key to staying slim is in your bones, in a natural hormone which stops the brain from wanting food. Scientists have discovered the chemical released by bone cells targets the parts of the brain which make us hungry.

They now know this hormone is lower in people with type 2 diabetes, who are overweight and have high blood sugar. Daily injections of the hormone, lipocalin 2, which naturally floods the body after meals, have been found to cause weight loss and lower appetite.

Lead author Dr Stavroula Kousteni said: 'In recent years, studies at Columbia University Medical Centre and elsewhere have shown that bone is an endocrine organ and produces hormones that affect brain development, glucose balance, kidney function, and male fertility.

'Our findings add a critical new function of bone hormones to this list, appetite suppression, which may open a wholly new approach to the treatment of metabolic disorders.'

Slimming pills currently bought from high street chemists work in one of four ways. They bind fat in the body, transporting through the gut before the body can extract the calories, speed up the metabolism to burn more calories, use bulking agents to make people feel fuller or suppress the appetite. Lipocalin 2, also known as LCN2, appears to work similarly to herbal remedies in dialing down the appetite, but has the advantage of being found in the body already.

Researchers detected a surge of the hormone in the blood following a meal, suggesting it is triggered by the food people have eaten. The breakthrough comes 20 years after it was discovered that osteoblasts, the cells which form bones, produce LCN2.

A decade ago it was discovered that the human skeleton, rather than being a hard, inert structure, is an endocrine organ like the pancreas or pituitary gland, which releases hormones regulating the way the brain uses energy from food.

The latest study, published in the journal Nature, shows the hormone is most abundant in the brain stem and the hypothalamus – the parts of the brain which control eating behaviour. It appears to turn on neurons in the brain that have been previously linked to appetite suppression.

Dr Kousteni said: 'The hope is that lipocalin 2 might have the same effects in humans, and that our findings can be translated into the development of therapies for obesity and other metabolic disorders.'

© Daily Mail